The thrilling five-set conquest of Foton over Petron in Game 1 of the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) best-of-three finals evolved into a grand showdown between two of the best imports ever to play in the country – Lindsay Stalzer and Stephanie Niemer.
Stalzer was simply impressive.
She went wild in the fifth set, towing the Tornadoes from a 3-8 deficit to a 12-8 advantage en route to a heart-stopping conquest in a marathon match that took two hours and 19 minutes to be decided.
The former Bradley University star finished the job with 26 attacks and three blocks for 30 points, treating local volleyball fans to an absolute display of firepower, brilliance and leadership from start to finish.
But she wasn’t the best individual player on the floor that night.
Niemer erupted for 26 kills, four aces and two blocks for 32 points to emerge as the match’s best scorer and all-around player. Unfortunately, she failed to draw enough support from her backers led by Serena Warner, Frances Molina and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, who finished with a combined 25 points.
Foton ran away with the victory, but the rivalry between Stalzer and Niemer – two of the best imports ever to play in the country – is just heating up.
‘We will beat you’
Prior to this fantastic display of prowess, Stalzer and Niemer got into a little thrash-talking as the Foton reinforcement fired a warning shot, joking that “we will beat you” to a member of Petron coaching staff.
Reports also had it that she posted the same message on her Instagram account. Although she quickly deleted it, sources from the Petron camp said the ultra-competitive Niemer saw it and wasn’t happy with what Stalzer wanted to convey.
Niemer branded the Tornadoes as “extremely confident slash arrogant.” Though she refused to engage into a war of words with her FIVB Women’s Club World Championship teammate, she said she would use it as a motivation to fire up her teammates.
Sources said the battle between Stalzer and Niemer is more than just the clash between two of the country’s best club teams fighting for the crown.
It’s also the battle who will bring home the Most Valuable Player award.
And it all boils down to only two choices: Stalzer or Niemer.
Just another opponent
But after Foton emerged victorious in Game 1, Stalzer brushed off her personal showdown with Niemer, saying that the former Cincinnati star is just another opponent on the floor just like other Tri-Activ Spikers.
She also said there’s no such thing as bitter rivalry as both of them are competitors who just want the best for their respective teams.
“She’s just one of the opponents inside the court.”
“So we’re just trying to be tactical so I was telling my teammates what are the things we need to do to stop her. I did my best to stop her and prevent her from scoring as many points as she can.”
Stalzer added that the key to victory was their poise and composure down the stretch.
But with the crown just within reach, Stalzer said they would go full blast to clobber Petron in Game 2.
She said she’s optimistic that at the end of the day, they would still remain victorious.
And there she is, standing tall and proud over Niemer and the Tri-Activ Spikers.