After zooming to four straight victories, speculations are pregnant that Petron will be gunning for a clean sweep of the Belo Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference.
The Blaze Spikers can obviously achieve it.
Despite losing some vital pieces that fueled their finals run in the PSL Grand Prix last year, the Blaze Spikers came up with a recruiting coup that led to the acquisition of stars Mika Reyes, Carmela Tunay and Rhea Dimaculangan.
Although sideliners believe that it’s going to be a rocky journey for the Blaze Spikers due to the recruitment of new faces, they overcame the doubts as they crushed Sta. Lucia, Cignal, Cocolife and Foton in impressive fashion.
Their mettle was severely tested when they faced the HD Spikers – an equally powerful squad bannered by veterans Rachel Anne Daquis, Maica Morada, Honey Royse Tubino, Paneng Mercado, Mumay Vivas and Jovelyn Gonzaga.
But still, the Blaze Spikers dominated them via a five-set thriller, a victory that a long-time volleyball observer credited to Petron’s UST (University of Santo Tomas) connection.
[quote]“If you look at Petron’s lineup very careful, most of them are connected to UST.”
“Shaq Delos Santos was the coach the last time UST won its (UAAP) women’s title with Ian (Fernandez) as his assistant. Their players include Aiza (Maizo-Pontillas) and Rhea (Dimaculangan). Even Mela (Tunay) and Dancel (Dusaran) trace their roots for UST. So there’s really a pattern.”
“That’s why we were not surprised why Petron is playing very well. Its key players are very familiar with each other.”[/quote]
Still, does familiarity warrant a clean sweep?
The first squad to register a sweep of a PSL tournament was Petron.
Led by George Pascua, who is now with Cignal, the Blaze Spikers took the 2015 PSL All-Filipino Conference by storm and dominated their foes.
Unfortunately, everything changed after the Blaze Spikers fell short of winning the Grand Prix title as Manabat and Cayetano took a leave of absence due to pregnancy while Daquis rejoined her mother club in RC Cola-Army, as well while Marano packed her bags for F2 Logistics.
The Blaze Spikers’ sparkle was greatly reduced as they finished fourth in the PSL All-Filipino Conference and a bridesmaid finish in the Grand Prix in 2016.
This year, however, is the perfect time to wage revenge.
But Delos Santos is not thinking about it – or so he claims.
[quote]“As you know, all teams are still adjusting, including us. So it’s really a long way to go.”
“We’re not thinking of anything at this point. We’re just taking it one game at a time.”[/quote]
Delos Santos admitted that it would take a lot for them to duplicate the feat.
He said they would be facing a solid Generika-Ayala squad on Thursday where they expect the Lifesavers to throw everything at them just to clinch a victory and one of the only three slots in the semifinals.
And if ever they will emerge victorious, they will march to the semis and face other fancied foes, including a guest team from Japan – Kobe Shinwa Women’s University.
Delos Santos said they are clueless on the foreign team and will just rely on their volleyball instinct when they clash in the penultimate day of the tournament on April 1.
He, however, said they will do everything to pull the rug from under the Japanese to make the country proud, similar to what RC Cola-Army did to Est Cola of Thailand last year.
[quote]“We really have no idea.”
“We haven’t thought about it yet, but rest assured that we will do everything we can to prevail over them and make the country proud.”[/quote]
So yes, coming up with a sweep of the PSL Invitational Conference is easier said than done.
But in the end, Petron will make sure that it has enough gas on its tank to make the run.
The country’s pride and honor are at stake.