The Petron Blaze Spikers started the defense of their All Filipino Conference title with a convincing three-set victory over the upstart Cocolife Asset Managers. Any surprises there? They were clearly the better and more complete team. Just look at the 24 combined points that outside hitter Ces Molina and opposite Aiza Maizo-Pontillas registered. Add to that the 11 total markers that middles Mika Reyes and Remy Palma got and you have a team that is firing from all cylinders. It’s no wonder that they won the attack points battle too, 37-26.
But while the scoreline (25-18, 25-15, 25-18) shows a dominant performance by the Shaq Delos Santos-coached squad, the Asset Managers did not go down without a fight. They had 85 digs in 139 tries while Petron only had 70. This means that Cocolife showed solid floor defense in this PSL All Filipino Conference 2018 match especially with Denden Lazaro in tow. Yet the Blaze Spikers just had too many weapons. Shaky setting did not help Cocolife’s cause either as there were times when their setters and spikers did not jive in execution.
The Asset Managers had less great sets (22-29) even though they had more setting attempts (139-111). Not only was the Blaze Spikers more dominant but more efficient in running their plays. Credit that to setter Rhea Dimaculangan and Petron’s talented hitters who can turn faulty sets into scores.
Petron also dominated the net in blocks, 6-2. The terror of having Reyes, Palma, Molina, and Maizo-Pontillas denying them at the net must have crept into Cocolife’s mindset. This prompted them to commit 27 errors while Petron only had 18. But while Petron won this bout, the main story is about a player on the other side.
Kalei Mau is a legit asset for Cocolife
There’s truth to the hype. Kalei Mau is a volleyball talent. She scored 13 points in her first-ever PSL game, 11 of which from spikes. Mau also had a block and a service ace to show other aspects of her game. Her multi-dimensional game also showed when she made 11 excellent digs out of only 18 attempts. She endeared herself further when she barged through an advertiser’s banner while trying to save a ball. Lazaro tried to help her first. But none of the four other Asset Managers was able to send the ball to Petron’s side.
Cocolife got some clarity after this game that Mau can be the marquee player they can build around with. She performed well despite the pressure bestowed on her and she did it against the reigning champions. But while that question is settled, the Asset Managers would have to develop a second scoring threat much like how Molina and Maizo-Pontillas operated in this game. Who will step up then? Is it Mary Grace Berte? Arianna Angustia? Alexandra Denice Tan? or Shannen Palec? More wins are coming their way if Coach Moro Branislav can figure this.
Reality is that the answer might not come immediately. After all, they brought in new players and in-game adjustments is different from practice. Cocolife even hired a Serbian who was suggesting adjustments based on in-game tendencies. Even that obviously did not work against a more cohesive unit in Petron. Cocolife is not yet there but they are on their way with Mau. Hopefully, they’ll be better off as the conference progresses as their roles become more defined.
More patience is required from Cocolife fans though exciting times are coming. Even the Asset Managers’ assistant coach Joshua Ylaya that they are working on a two-conference process to becoming serious contenders. They have just finished the first game in conference one and there will be a lot of training and games left. But they must hold on to Mau at all costs to keep the foundation of their rebuild intact.