Foton erected an imposing defensive fortress down the stretch to escape a gritty Meralco side, 25-18, 18-25, 14-25, 25-16, 15-8, and formalize its entry to the semifinals of the 2015 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix women’s volleyball tournament last night at The Arena in San Juan.
With the triple-tower combination of imports Lindsay Stalzer and Katie Messing and Jaja Santiago intensifying its defense, the Tornadoes were unstoppable in the deciding set to eke out the victory in this prestigious inter-club tourney presented by Asics and backed by Milo with Senoh, Mikasa and Mueller as technical partners and TV5 as official broadcaster.
The comely, but powerful Stalzer nailed 20 kills and three blocks for a total of 24 points while Messing registrered 11 kills for a 13-hit performance.
For her part, Santiago, the league’s tallest local player at 6-foot-5, had a 14-hit effort while igniting the Tornadoes’ net defense in the crucial stretch of the fifth set that completely broke the back of the luckless Power Spikers.
“As usual, we relaxed again in the second and third sets,” said Foton coach Villet Ponce-de Leon. “But we gathered ourselves in the fourth set and concentrated on defense in the fifth to claim this win. I told them that we have to focus on defense; it’s the only that can bail us out.”
It was Foton’s fifth victory in eight games.
More than that, it formally sent the Tornadoes to the semifinals wherein reigning champion Petron and Cignal have already punched their respective tickets.
“We’re already in the semis, but it doesn’t mean that we will relax,” Ponce-de Leon added. “It’s still a long way to go. We still have to win our last two games (against RC Cola-Air Force and Petron) to have a good standing and a better pairing in the next round. We still need a lot of hard work.”
But against Meralco, a squad which is just playing for nothing but pride, Foton nearly collapsed.
Import Christina Alessi finally gained her groove as she peppered the defense with hot smashes from the wing while Mika Reyes asserted her will in the middle to give the Power Spikers a quick 8-0 advantage en route to an easy victory in the third set.
The Tornadoes, however, fought back in the fourth and quickly extended the game to a deciding set.
And after taking a 5-6 lead in the fifth, Santiago, Messing and Stalzer threw their defensive blanket at the net, giving the Tornadoes a 12-6 advantage that crushed the morale of the Power Spikers.
“I told them that we have no way to resolve Meralco’s attacks but through our defense,” said Ponce-de Leon. “My leaders stepped up. They never gave up.”
Alessi knocked down 16 kills to finish with team-high 18 points while Reyes had eight kills and three blocks for a 13-point effort for Meralco, which remains winless after eight outings.