AS Petron and F2 Logistics prepare to meet in the finals for the fifth straight time, wonder what else is new in the Philippine Superliga's premier rivalry.
Practically no one in the Philippine volleyball community was shocked when the Blaze Spikers and Cargo Movers took down at the semifinal stage last Tuesday and forged another best-of-three series for the All-Filipino Conference title.
The two teams have split their first four finals showdowns, Petron winning the 2017 All-Filipino and 2018 Grand Prix titles and F2 Logistics emerging victorious in the 2017 Grand Prix and 2018 Invitational finals.
Now the top two club teams in the country rekindle their rivalry in Game One on Saturday, 6 p.m., at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
So who has the edge this time?
The Blaze Spikers are on pace to win a fifth PSL title and possibly surpass their 13-0 unbeaten run in the 2015 All-Filipino Conference with a team led by the quartet of Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Rachel Anne Daquis, Aby Maraño and Ces Molina.
Molina, the lone remaining member of the 2015 squad, has teamed up with Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Mika Reyes, Rhea Dimaculangan, Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons to go 12-0 up until this point after sweeping the 10-game preliminary round before taking down Sta. Lucia and Cignal in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
“I guess swerte kami kasi alam ng players kung ano yung sistema namin, nagfo-follow sila and madali silang kausap. Alam namin na pag ganito yung gusto naming mangyari doon din sila,” said Petron head coach Shaq Delos Santos, an assistant to coach George Pascua when the team made that historic run.
“Kung bibigay talaga ni Lord, why not? I’m sure sila din gusto nila ng championship for us,” he said. “Siguro mas kailangan muna namin mag-ready, wag muna namin tignan kung ano y'ung makukuha namin, kailangan mas magtrabaho kami this time.”
For the Cargo Movers, this is their chance to exact sweet revenge against the defending champion Blaze Spikers and regain the All-Filipino title which they won in 2016 back when Reyes was still with the team.
F2 Logistics head coach Ramil de Jesus, however, admitted Petron’s rotation is deeper while some of his players are dealing with injuries, including star opposite spiker Kianna Dy who is listed as doubtful with a left knee ligament damage.
“Yung Petron kasi may advantage sa dami ng mapapa-ikot nilang tao. Sa amin like sa situation ngayon, iilan lang talaga 'yung pwede kong mapa-ikot na tao,” he said.
Still, De Jesus still has a number of aces up his sleeve. Michelle Morente has filled the gap left by Dy, Cha Cruz-Behag and Invitational Conference MVP Ara Galang are back in form along with middle blockers Aby Maraño and Majoy Baron as well as setter Kim Fajardo and libero Dawn Macandili.
“Animan lang naman sa loob, kung sinong matibay diyan. Edi kung kaya nilang mag-survive ng sila lang edi okay, good para sa team,” De Jesus insisted.
If there is one thing the two coaches agree on, it is that heart will determine how the latest installment in this rivalry will go.
"'Yung puso, tibay and gaano kasolid yung team, 'yun 'yung hopefully mangibabaw sa amin,” said Delos Santos.
“Depende sa kagustuhan ng team kung gusto nilang manalo this finals,” De Jesus said. “Hopefully, gustuhin nila kasi pinaghihirapan naman nila sa practice yan.”