Will the identity-seeking Cignal break the dynasty-bound Petron?

PSL Grand Prix Preliminaries Recap

1st Game (March 9) : Petron defeated Cignal HD in straight-sets (25-15, 25-19, 25-14)
2nd Game (March 16): Petron defeated Cignal HD in straight-sets (25-10, 25-7, 25-19)

Quarterfinals in review

One seed Petron defeated Eight seed Sta. Lucia in straight sets (25-17, 25-11, 25-19)
Fourth seed Cignal defeated Fifth seed UVC in four-sets (25-22, 18-25, 25-21, 25-20)

In a battle between two squads on two different journeys this season, this is how the story of both well-known franchises will be closing out the season as the defending champions Petron Blaze Spikers and Cignal HD Spikers look to see who will march on to the finals of the PSL Grand Prix.

What should Petron do?

Photo credit: Noel Monzales, Volleyball PH

With a squad on a tear this conference, the two-time seeking Petron has blazed through the opposition as they have been on a 16-game winning streak dating back from last All-filipino conference finals. And if there is one more stat that is most impressive of the tournament for the Blaze Spikers, it is that they are 45-1 in sets this conference as their only set loss was against their arch-rivals F2 Logistics during the first round. As such, this makes them the most successful squad in the history of the PSL to date with a winning percentage of 98%.

But what makes this Blaze Spikers squad unstoppable? It is because of their one-two import combo of Stephanie Niemer and Katherine Bell. Niemer, who made her return to the squad after leading the Blaze Spikers to the finals of the 2016 Grand Prix, is on a scoring tear for Petron as she has accumulated a total score of 292 points with an average of 19.5 ppg. But what makes Niemer dangerous is her powerful jump serves as she leads the league in service aces with 40 aces.

Bell, who came in as a late replacement in last year’s Grand Prix to Hillary Hurley, on the other hand is looking to bring a back-to-back crown to Petron with her leadership and scoring abilities. Her numbers are just behind Niemer with 286 points with an average of 19.1 ppg. Such numbers are the things that keeps Petron’s motor running.

Another added positive for the Blaze Spikers are their service aces. It is not just Niemer that gives the scoring punch from the service line but also the locals led by Remy Palma, Rhea Dimaculangan, and Mika Reyes which produces an average of two aces a match for Petron. Such numbers are big as this can make or break a confidence of the opposing squad.

What should Cignal do?

Photo credit: Noel Monzales, Volleyball PH

It has been a roller-coaster of a ride for the HD Spikers. One game they are in control, the following they lose composure thus making it a loss for the HD Spikers. What they should do to at least get a good first ball. In their second round loss to Petron, they gave up a PSL-high 16 service aces that led to their defeat. Jheck Dionela, who is currently at number three in receptions at 154 excellent receptions, cannot do it alone as the other HD Spikers need to help Dionela in getting those first balls.

Another thing they should do is get Erica Wilson and Anastasiya Artemeva working. Wilson, who currently leads the league in scoring with 316 points total, will have to double her efforts for the HD Spikers to get at least a set against the Blaze Spikers. With the trust given to her by Coach Edgar Barroga, expect an explosion for Wilson in this semifinals series. The X-factor for the series is Artemeva.

In their two losses against Petron, Artemeva scored a total of 12 points which are very low as what is expected in an import. But in their quarterfinals series against UVC, the Azerbaijan national scored 18 points, five on blocks, which are key numbers most especially in their quest to stop Bell and Niemer.

Who will take Game One of this series? Will it be an upset Cignal or will it be a continuing flow for Petron? This could be a very interesting series moving forward for this PSL Grand Prix,

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