Petron looks to close in on leaders as Air Force tries to end four-match skid in Super Liga Grand Prix
Rupia Inck and the Blaze Spikers eye thir fifth win in seven matches. Dante Peralta

REIGNING champion Petron takes on struggling RC Cola-Air Force on Thursday in the 2015 Philippine Superliga Grand Prix at The Arena in San Juan.

The Blaze Spikers and Raiders clash at 6:15 p.m. after the match 4:15 p.m. match between pacesetting Cignal and Foton.

Petron suffered some hiccups in the first round after absorbing sorry losses to Cignal and Philips Gold.

But in their grudge match against the erstwhile unbeaten HD Spikers on Tuesday night, a more fluid and more motivated Petron squad showed up and had key adjustments down the stretch to pull off a dramatic five-set win.

Brazilian reinforcement Rupia Inck came through with a stellar performance in the final stretch of the deciding set while playmaker Erica Adachi completely took control for the Blaze Spikers.

Inck delivered 21 hits and four blocks, while Adachi was also impressive as she registered 38 of the squad's 40 total excellent sets.

Dindin Santiago-Manabat chipped in with 18 points on 16 kills and two blocks for Petron.

"This is an important win for us," said Petron coach George Pascua, heaving a sigh of relief after a furious contest that lasted for one hour and 57 minutes. "This victory will serve as a huge morale-booster for us entering the second round."

Petron is in solo third spot with a 4-2 win-loss card behind Cignal at 5-1 and Philips Gold at 4-1.

On the other hand, the RC Cola-Air Force is looking to end a losing run.

After opening the tourney with a five-set victory over Meralco, the Raiders absorbed four consecutive setbacks, with lethargic defense and the poor condition of their locals who underwent a nine-month basic military training prior to this tournament.

The only bright spots were their imports in Lynda Morales and Sara McCllinton.

"But our imports can't do it alone," said RC Cola-Air Force coach Rhovyl Verayo. "Our locals must also step up and contribute. Petron is a very special team. We have to work hard if we want to catch up."

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Also set to spice up the scheduled clashes is the full implementation of the video challenge system featuring 16 high-definition cameras and a giant projector inside the venue.

The system, provided by Italy-based Data Volley, had its dry-run on Tuesday. A technical meeting and briefing among coaches and team managers were held on Wednesday in anticipation for the full implementation on Thursday.

"We're all excited to use this latest volleyball technology," said Suzara, who served as control committee chief of numerous world tourneys where the video challenge system was used. "We will be the first club league in Asia to use this kind of cutting-edge technology. This is our contribution to uplift the state of volleyball in the country."

Follow the writer on Twitter: @spinph