IT’S going to be an action-packed and emotional duel Saturday when Petron seeks to extend its reign by gunning for a third consecutive crown against a young and hungry Foton side in the deciding game of the 2015 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix finals at the Astrodome.
Opening serve is at 1 p.m. with another massive crowd tipped to witness an intense Game Three of the title series of 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.
A team built around stars Aby Marano, Rachel Ann Daquis, and Dindin Manabat with Brazilians Rupia Inck and Erika Adachi serving as reinforcements, Petron is heavily tipped to blaze its way to the crown.
But fate had a different script.
The Blaze Spikers were upset by the Tornadoes in Game 1,14-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-22, casting doubt on their ability to match, or surpass, the three straight crowns masterfully carved by powerhouse Philippine Army in the early editions of the league.
Petron, behind the leadership of Adachi and the rock-solid backline defense of libero Jen Reyes, stormed back and conquered Game 2 in nail-biting fashion, 25-13, 25-21, 23-25, 26-24, to set the stage for this kill-or-be killed encounter.
“Game 3 is not just an ordinary game,” said Petron coach George Pascua, noting the league's first-ever Game 3 will not be a battle of firepower, coaching strategy, or defensive prowess, but a “clash of hearts.”
“Whoever has the desire and the fighting heart will win the crown. Game 3 is where heroes are born. We have to seize the opportunity and unleash all our weapons to make sure that we will be the last team standing. Nandito na kami. Ilalabas na namin lahat ng pwedeng ilabas.”
Winning the crown, however, will not be a cakewalk for Petron.
Foton, a team which made a late push in the eliminations before shocking topseed Philips Gold in the semifinals, has proven to be not an easy foe.
With the triple tower of American imports Lindsay Stalzer, Katie Messing, and national team stalwart Jaja Manabat at the frontline, the Tornadoes displayed an elite defense in Game 1 before suffering a late-game meltdown in Game 2 that equalized the series.
“But expect a different story in Game 3,” vowed Foton coach Villet Ponce-de Leon. “We will put special premium on defense. We know that offense earns points, but defense wins games. We have to tighten up our blocking and backline defense if we want to win the crown.”
Ponce-de Leon also added they need to have a lightning-quick start to throw Petron off its comfort zone.
“In the past two games of the series palaging mabagal ang simula namin,” she said. “We need to jump the gun early because Petron is a veteran team. Mahirap kalaban ang experience nila sa 5th set. So hindi na dapat umabot pa sa ganun. Kailangan sa simula pa lang magtrabaho na kami.”
“We were brought here by fate. We have a lot of luck in the elimination and semis so it's time for us to work and do our part. We have to work hard to convert that luck into a title.”