Shortly after crushing Sta. Lucia in the Belo-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference over the weekend, Generika-Ayala head coach Francis Vicente issued a very important mission for the Lifesavers.
It came in just two words: Beat Petron.
Yes, overcoming the unbeaten Blaze Spikers may sound like scaling Mt. Everest, but the Lifesavers are desperate for a victory that will keep their flickering semifinal hopes alive in the season-opening conference of this prestigious women’s club league.
Generika-Ayala is currently tied with Foton at the third spot with a 2-2 win-loss slate and a victory over Petron and Foton’s setback over lightweight Lady Realtors will send them directly to the semis.
But things will get complicated if the Lifesavers will beat Petron and Foton will beat Sta. Lucia in the final day of eliminations this Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
In that scenario, both Generika-Ayala and Foton will remain tied at 3-2 and the organizers will consult the points and set won to declare who has the upper hand.
Interestingly, both the Lifesavers and the Tornadoes have won eight sets and lost seven sets, making it one of the tightest – and most exciting – semifinal race in the league’s young history.
That’s why the Lifesavers’ back are against the wall.
Compared to Foton, they are stacked against a more formidable foe that has the firepower, the experience, the defense and, of course, the strength to dominate them.
Ready for war
But if there’s a team that could pull a massive upset of the Blaze Spikers, it’s definitely the Lifesavers.
After undergoing massive revamp in the off-season, Generika-Ayala netted a handful of players who have the experience to beat Petron.
Opposite spiker Angeli Araneta, libero Bia, open spikers Carol Cerveza and Patty Orendain were all part of the mighty Foton squad that clobbered Petron in the finals of the PSL Grand Prix for two consecutive years.
Aside from them, Generika-Ayala’s starting setter in Acy Masangkay was part of the Petron squad that won a pair of titles and tallied a historic 13-0 sweep of the PSL All-Filipino Conference two years ago.
A long-time PSL sideliner who spoke on condition of anonymity said if the Lifesavers will play true to their form, they can easily pull the rug from under Petron.
“This team may look young, but a closer look at its roster will reveal the massive experience of its players. Most of its players have already played in the PSL finals and the AVC tournament and know how to win.”
Against Sta. Lucia, Araneta dominated the score sheet with 14 points, but it was unsung heroes like Mikaela Lopez, Gen Casugod and Rosalie Pepito who made heads turn as they did the damage for most part of the game.
The unheralded troika delivered a combined 26 attacks, leaving the Lady Realtors groping for form in the second and third sets.
While Vicente is satisfied with the run being waged by his wards, he said things would definitely be difficult as they face the star-studded crew of Mika Reyes, Carmela Tunay, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Frances Molina.
The Blaze Spikers, in fact, have yet to lose in four starts and their maturity was tested when they pulled off a dramatic five-set victory over seasoned Cignal squad, which is bannered by Rachel Anne Daquis, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Honey Royse Tubino, Mylene Paat and Cherry Vivas.
“But we will do everything we can to beat them. We will prepare hard and play at a higher level.”
Vicente, who will coach the national women’s team in two major international tournaments in August, added that cracking the vaunted Petron code entails a lot of team effort and special attention to defense.
Vicente said winning over Sta. Lucia will be worthless if they will not fulfill their goal of making it to the semifinals.
And while it sounds like scaling Mt. Everest due to its level of toughness and difficulty, for these Lifesavers, winning over Petron is definitely a mission possible.