What was harped as the battle between two of the country’s best imports was greatly reduced into a lopsided affair as Stephanie Niemer powered Petron to a surprisingly easy 25-22, 25-19, 25-10 victory over Hayley Spelman and F2 Logistics in the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
Niemer was simply at her best. She finished the job with 12 kills and a season-high nine aces for 21 points while anchoring the defense with four of the Tri-Activ Spikers’ six successful blocks. Her floor defense was also on point and her reception was almost flawless, making her one of the best all-around players the league had ever saw.
On the other hand, Spelman was not the player she used to be.
She was slow on defense and her attacks were sluggish. In fact, she hit the shower with a mere six points next to her name without tallying a single block or even an ace.
Spelman was obviously surprised by the power of a hurricane named Stephanie Niemer from Kentucky – she clearly dominated her!
Hard to control
De Jesus admitted that Niemer’s powerful serve is the best in the business.
She packs it with power like launching a rocket ship, making sure that the defense would have a hard time receiving it. And if ever defense manages to receive it, the reception would be so bad that it would be impossible for them to come up with a good offensive play.
[quote]Her serves were hard to control. Niemer’s serves have been the perennial problem of all teams playing against Petron. Had we managed to control her serves, they wouldn’t go far and we would stand a chance. But we failed to do it. We couldn’t control her serves.[/quote]
It was the second meeting between Petron and F2 Logistics. In their first encounter, reception was the main problem of the Cargo Movers as they allowed the Tri-Activ Spikers to come up with 14 aces en route to a 17-25, 22-25, 19-25 setback.
Niemer was impressive with 15 kills, two blocks and four aces while Frances Molina delivered six kills and six aces.
In that game, Spelman was not yet around while Ara Galang was not in great shape, leaving Sydney Kemper as the lone reinforcement together with local stars Cha Cruz, Aby Marano, Kim Fajardo, Mika Reyes and Cyd Demecillo.
That’s why everybody was looking forward to their rematch, hoping that Spelman’s arrival would spark an uprising and give Petron a serious run for their money. But it didn’t happen.
Spelman said Niemer came out firing right at the opening serve, giving them a tough time to adjust to her powerful serves and relentless attacks. She also gave them an eye-opener on where they should work on for the tough grind ahead.
[quote]Petron is such a great team and they came out playing their best. We just didn’t know adjust and they showed us what are the things we really need to work on.[/quote]
De Jesus said it was Spelman’s first time to compete against Niemer and Petron so her sluggish performance is quite understandable unlike Kemper who competed with her in the first round.
[quote]Sydney already had an idea how to play Petron since she was already here the first time we played against them. On the contrary, it was Hayley’s first time to play against them.[/quote]
Far from over
The setback snapped the Cargo Movers’ three-game winning run. They are now at the middle of the team standings behind Foton and Petron, who fashion 5-0 and 5-1 win-loss cards, respectively. But it doesn’t worry de Jesus.
[quote]It’s still far from over. While it’s great if we can finish the elimination round in the top two, we still have a chance to make it to the semis since the third and fourth seed will face the sixth and fifth seed, respectively. So it’s really a long way to go. Even if you’re at the bottom (of the team standing), you still have a chance to (win the title) if you will not lose in the playoffs. You just have to do your best to make it to the semis.[/quote]
F2 Logistics’ next match would be against Cignal on Saturday. It’s going to be the start of the Cargo Movers’ resurgence. The setback to Petron motivated them to do better. It keeps them hungry. Anything is still possible.