(The Arena, San Juan City)
7 p.m. – Cignal vs Petron
By Kristel Satumbaga
Cignal and Petron clash Thursday for the other finals berth in the Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference at The Arena in San Juan City.
Action fires off at 7 p.m. with the HD Spikers hoping to ride on the momentum of their 25-20, 10-25, 16-25, 27-25, 15-11 triumph over the defending champions Blaze Spikers last Tuesday that forged the rubber match.
Needing to beat Petron twice, Cignal tightened its defense to hold off Petron’s spikers for a shot at a first finals appearance. The HD Spikers’s best finish in the All-Filipino was fourth.
Rachel Daquis and Roselyn Doria are expected to lead Cignal’s defense after merging for seven of the team’s 14 blocks even as Daquis is also slated to sizzle offensively following a 14-spike output.
Jovelyn Gonzaga’s experience will also be instrumental in the HD Spikers’ bid to dethrone the Blaze Spikers and arrange a best-of-three titular showdown with F2 Logistics, which has already marched into the finals with a 25-19, 25-23, 17-25, 25-19 victory over Foton two days ago at the Muntinlupa Sports Center.
Cignal coach Edgar Barroga lauded his wards, saying that the pressure is on Petron as it tries to keep its dream of winning a three-peat alive.
“We came here with nothing to lose. The pressure is now on Petron,” said Barroga following their thrilling encounter that lasted until the wee hours of Wednesday.
Petron, however, will not give up easily as it tries to regain lost touch that earned them top seeding in the quarterfinals and a twice-to-beat semifinal advantage.
Petron coach Shaq delos Santos will lean on attackers Sisi Rondina, Aiza Pontillas, Mika Reyes and Bernadeth Pons in destroying Cignal’s net defense and on setter Rhea Dimaculangan for a variety of plays.
Instead of dwelling on the lost opportunity, Delos Santos said they are back to the drawing board.
“We knew the quality of this Cignal team right from the start of the conference. They have a tall and very deep lineup,” said Delos Santos, who is looking to forge a rematch with the Cargo Movers in the finals starting this Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We have to accept that loss and move on. It’s not yet over for us. We can still bounce back and finish the job. We have another chance and we have to be ready for the challenge since this will be the biggest test for our team,” he added.
The Blaze Spikers bombarded Cignal for 17 kills but they were not enough to put the HD Spikers down particularly in the crunch.
Denden Lazaro will also take charge of the Blaze Spikers’ floor defense.