Rivalries are the blood line of sports. Nothing captures fan interest more than two storied franchises that always bring out the fiercest of each other, be it by scores or by scuffles.
That’s the reason why Ateneo-La Salle games generate much buzz. The bad blood that started in basketball parlayed to volleyball and the quality of the games are elevated by talented players on both sides.
One rivalry of that magnitude has continually developed in the PSL. On one corner, there’s the Petron Blaze Spikers who is one of the league’s six founding teams. On the other, the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers and its DLSU-laden roster. They have a combined eight PSL titles between them, five of which were contested against each other. Their players remain friends off the court. But the atmosphere is intense in every rally that these two teams contest.
But while the F2 Logistics-Petron rivalry is now a constant PSL story line, let’s trace where it all began.
Coach RDJ did not click for Shopinas
Prior to the 2015 PSL All-Filipino Conference, Coach Ramil De Jesus had eight UAAP senior women’s volleyball titles to his credit. However, he only managed to bring the Lady Spikers to runner-up finishes in the Seasons 76 and 77. This did not deter the Shopinas.com management to name him as head coach of the Clickers and he brought in his own players like Stephanie Mercado, Cha Cruz-Behag, and Kim Kianna Dy to name a few.
The plan clicked initially as the Clickers raced to a 6-4 record to clinch the second seed. That prompted a knock-out semifinal clash against the Foton Tornadoes which they won in four sets. In the other semifinal pairing, the Philips Gold Lady Slammers lost in straight sets to the Blaze Spikers who had Aby Marano on their roster. De Jesus would endure yet another disappointment as Petron swept them in the best-of-three Finals to capture its second consecutive title.
Worst, the long-time De La Salle mentor led the Meralco Power Spikers to a 1-9 record in the 2015 PSL Grand Prix even though he had the likes of Cruz-Behag, Mika Reyes, Dawn Macandili, Kim Fajardo, and Majoy Baron in the fold. Meanwhile, Petron swept the Power Spikers in their only match-up but lost to Foton in the Finals of the same conference.
F2 Logistics is born
The Cargo Movers joined the PSL in 2016 and one of their first moves is to draft long-time DLSU stalwart Ara Galang with the first overall selection in the PSL draft. Marano also joined the squad after her Petron contract is up. However, their path to dominance started with a hiccup. They made it to the top four of the 2016 PSL Invitation Cup but did not win a single game in the single round-robin final.
Their fortunes changed during the PSL All-Filipino Conference. They went undefeated in seven games during the first round of preliminaries and lost only to the RC Cola-Army Troopers in round two. Still, their record was good enough to capture the second seed. But standing in their path to the Finals are the Petron Blaze Spikers. De Jesus and his squad avenged their earlier setbacks with a straight-sets win to set a clash with Foton for the title.
F2 Logistics won its first PSL title after three games with Macandili named as Conference MVP. Galang and Marano were named 1st Best Outside Spiker and 1st Best Middle Blocker, respectively. Fajardo was also inked as Best Setter.
Petron blazes a revenge job
The Cargo Movers had high hopes coming into the 2016 PSL Grand Prix. They completed a four-set win over the Cignal HD Spikers in the quarterfinals. Yet once again, Petron is standing in their way. This time, the Blaze Spikers halted F2’s run with a five-set classic. F2 was just one set away from another Finals appearance. However, Petron completed its comeback with a 25-22 fourth set and a 15-10 fifth.
The rivalry in full swing
After playing for F2 Logistics, Mika Reyes signed with Petron in January 2017 to bolster their net defense. This somehow compensates as well for Marano’s transfer from Petron to F2 prior to the 2016 PSL season. It was at this point that the rivalry came in full swing as both squads were at the height of their powers. Thus, it’s no surprise that the championship became a see-saw battle between them since the 2017 All-Filipino Conference.
Petron won the 2017 All-Filipino crown in two games, including a five-set Game Two that can be regarded as one of the best games in PSL history. The first three sets had identical 26-24 score lines with F2 getting two of them. But just like before, Petron responded with a 25-23 win in the fourth and a 15-11 tally in the fifth to lift the franchise’s second PSL title. Aiza Maizo-Pontillas was named MVP while Rhea Dimaculangan is tagged as Best Setter. Reyes is also the 2nd Best Middle Blocker behind F2’s Baron.
F2 Logistics then reversed the script in the 2017 PSL Grand Prix. Reinforced by Conference MVP Maria Jose Perez and Kennedy Bryan, the Cargo Movers won the title in three games. Petron won Game One in three sets but F2 responded with a four-set victory to force a rubber match. The wards of Coach De Jesus romped the Blaze Spikers in four sets to capture the crown and tie Petron’s title haul at two.
Petron-F2 sweep in 2018
The momentum swung back to Petron yet again in the 2018 PSL Grand Prix by defeating F2 in three games. The Blaze Spikers’ Lindsay Stalzer led them to the promised land as she was named MVP. Katherine Bell and libero Yuri Fukuda had significant contributions for coach Cesael Delos Santos as well. Reyes was once again named 2nd Best Middle Blocker.
But in the succeeding 2018 PSL Invitationals, F2 Logistics did not waste any time to even the title haul at three apiece. They defeated the HD Spikers in the semis to force yet another Finals stint against their heated rivals. The Cargo Movers won in two games with Galang completing her glorious comeback from injury to Conference MVP. Macandili is named Best Libero while Baron is hailed as 2nd Best Middle Blocker.
In the 2018 All-Filipino Conference, the Blaze Spikers breezed through the competition with a 12-0 record before entering the Finals. But after winning Game 1 of the championship series, their rivals handed them their first loss in the conference. The set back was short-lived as Petron took home its fifth PSL title after a straight-sets win that clinched a near-perfect 14-1 record.
The end is not yet in sight
No one knows for sure when this rivalry will end. Given that their players are still at the peak of their careers, there’s a chance that it would extend for at least half a decade more. But in every junction that they meet, both the F2 Logistics Cargo Moves and the Petron Blaze Spikers will find that edge that will bring them over their rivals. That itch to be the best will only give rise to the best brand of volleyball we can ever witness.