Foton Drops Top-Seed Philips Gold, Enters PSL Grand Prix Finals

Lindsay Stalzer dug deep into her well of experience to carry Foton to an earth-shaking upset of topseed Philips Gold, 25-18, 26-24, 18-25, 20-25, 15-8 in the semifinals of the 2015 Philipine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix women’s volleyball tournament last night at The Arena in San Juan.

Stalzer was unstoppable in the deciding set as the Tornadoes formally advanced to the best-of-three finals showdown of this prestigious inter-club tourney presented by Asics and backed by Milo with Senoh, Mikasa and Mueller as technical sponsors and TV5 as official broadcaster.

The 6-foot-1 former Bradley University star who campaigned for Cignal in last year’s edition of the season-ending conference nailed 26 kills and three blocks to finish with a team-high 29 points on top of a lot of grit, hustle and leadership down the crucial stretch of the deciding set that completely shove the Lady Slammers off their comfort zone.

Stalzer delivered seven points in the fifth set while Philips Gold, led by former UCLA star Bojana Todorovic, crashed with numerous errors and misreceptions.

“She knows the game here in the Philippines,” said Foton coach Villet Ponce-de Leon. “She is a seasoned player. She is my captain inside the court and she knows the game very well. That’s why we never hesitated to go to her when the going was getting tough.”

But Stalzer didn’t do it alone.

Jaja Santiago chipped in 15 points while Katie Messing had 13 markers for the Tornadoes, who will gear up for the best-of-three titular showdown with the winner between Petron and Cignal starting Monday.

Petron and Cignal are still competing in their semis battle as of press time.

“We’re on the right track,” Ponce-de Leon said. “This is our goal. This is where we want to be right from the start. Now that we’re already in this situation, we will work hard to win the ultimate prize which is the championship trophy. This win is a major boost to our team.”

True enough, the Tornadoes looked like a championship contender in the first two sets.

But with Todorovic catching fire and Alexis Olgard and Myla Pablo starting to heat up, the Lady Slammers took the third and fourth sets to book a fifth set duel, much to the excitement of the huge crowd that trooped to the venue to experience elite level of competition never before seen in club league in the country.

Foton, behind Stalzer’s hot smashes from the backrow, took a quick 8-4 advantage at the turn. The Lady Slammers tried to fight back, but Todorovic suffered four of Philips Gold’s five errors before Santiago scored on a running attack to seal the match.

“Foton played really well. They showed up prepared,” said Todorovic, the former UCLA varsity who won a national title in 2011. “I can give you a thousand excuses, but it’s just a game; someone’s gonna win, someone’s gonna lose.”

Todorovic had all of her 31 points on kills while Olgard delivered 19 hits and Pablo 10 markers for the Lady Slammers, who will face the loser in the Petron-Cignal semis match in the classification battle for 3rd-4th places this weekend at the Imus Sports Complex in Imus, Cavite.