Petron bucks slow start to edge Cignal spikers

Souped-up Petron needed a little time to heat up before cruising to a 19-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-21 victory over Cignal in the 2016 PLDT Home Ultera Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference women’s volleyball tournament at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.

Seasoned Aiza Maizo-Pontillas caught fire down the stretch while newcomers Cherry Nunag and CJ Rosario erected a stone-wall defense at the net to tow the Tri-Activ Spikers to their first win in this prestigious interclub tourney bankrolled by Asics, Mikasa, Senoh, Mueller and Grand Sports with TV5 as official broadcast partner.

Maizo-Pontillas, a former University of Santo Tomas star, delivered 15 kills to finish with 18 points while Mina Aganon and Maica Morada chipped in 11 and 10 markers, respectively, for Petron, which still looks like a solid contender despite losing the services of its three stars in Rachel Anne Daquis, Aby Marano and Dindin Manabat.

Nunag and Rosario, two new faces who are manning the middle position were also impressive as they threw a defensive blanket at the net in the deciding set, leaving the HD Spikers struggling to launch their attacks.

“I told them na adjustment lang muna tayo sa first set,” said Petron coach George Pascua, whose wards opened the match with numerous errors before making some key adjustments in the second and third sets. “That’s why in the second and third sets, medyo ibinuhos na namin. I told them na umpisahan natin ito ng maganda at tapusin din natin ng maganda. Dun na gumana ang depensa namin at sumunod na ang pagkonekta ng mga atake namin.”

True enough, the Tri-Active Spikers used the opening set as a mere warm up.

But the match took a complete turn in the second and third sets as hitters Morada and Aganon started to assert themselves while Nunag and Rosario took care of defending the net as well as libero Jen Reyes and Bang Pineda, who manned the backline.

Although the HD Spikers waxed hot in the crucial stretch of the tjhird set, with College of Saint Benilde star Janine Navarro terrorizing the attack zone for a 20-all count, Cignal fell to a maze of errors before Morada scored an ace and Maizo-Pontillas connected a booming left-hand smash from the opposite.

“Aiza provides veteran leadership on the floor,” said Pascua, adding that it is a homecoming of sorts for Maizo-Pontillas who was part of Petron’s original squad. “She is a silent killer, our equalizer. Kapag ginusto nya nagagawa nya talaga.”

Navarro tallied 16 points while her College of Saint Benilde teammate Jeanette Panaga had 11 markers for the HD Spikers, who opened Round 2 with a sorry loss.