IMPORT Stephanie Niemer said that Petron would rather experience the slow start in Game 1 of their best-of-three semifinals series than late in their Philippine Superliga Grand Prix title-retention bid.
Coming off a 17-day break since their quarterfinals game against Sta. Lucia last April 6, the Blaze Spikers needed to recover from their diesel-like start before beating Cignal, 20-25, 25-14, 25-13, 25–18, to inch a win closer to marching to its fourth straight Grand Prix Finals appearance on Tuesday at the Arena in San Juan City.
Niemer, who put up 24 points for the team’s 16th consecutive win, admitted it was tough in the first set bucking a rusty performance, while the HD Spikers were on top of their game led by import Erica Wilson.
“Honestly, the first set was tough, but I'm kind of glad that it happened because we were challenged,” Niemer said. “The playoffs aren't easy, teams are adjusting and playing better than what we saw in the regular season. The fact that we were challenged it kind of pumps us up for Thursday. We know it's gonna be another battle.”
Despite the slow start, Niemer, her fellow import Katherine Bell and the rest of the Blaze Spikers showed they can bounce back and still dominate the game, which they have been doing in the past 16 games, where they drop a set only twice.
“It's just kind of how we've been in short breaks, we kind of start slow. It's good for our team that we bounced back really well,” Niemer said. “I don't think we get shaken by that first set loss. I'm pretty proud of us for not cracking under the pressure. We learned from it and took off.”
Petron will try to sweep Cignal in Game 2 on Thursday eyeing its ninth consecutive Finals berth and 13th overall appearance in the championship round.
Niemer is determined to close out the series.
“We're kind of starting fresh and just refocusing on Thursday,” Niemer said. “We're just gonna stay focused. We have a goal and we don't see any other options. We just wanna make sure that we achieve our goals. We wanna wrap it up and get the series.”