FOLLOWING its sorry loss to Foton in Game One of the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix best-of-three finals showdown on Thursday, reigning champion Petron suddenly found itself in unfamiliar territory.
It is the first time the Blaze Spikers are trailing in a title series, but Blaze Spikers' coach George Pascua has vowed to make major comeback when they clash with the Tornadoes anew in Game Two on Monday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Petron won its first Grand Prix crown in dominant fashion as imports Alaina Bergsma and Erika Adachi led the Blaze Spikers to a sweep of Generika in the finals. A few months later in the All-Filipino Conference, they posted a clean 10-game sweep of the double-round eliminations before clobbering Shopinas in the title series.
This time, Petron's road to another title will no longer be an easy ride.
“First time ito, so we treat it as a challenge,” said Pascua, who is looking to become the second coach to post a rare grand-slam in the inter-club tourney presented by Asics and backed by Milo with Mikasa, Senoh and Mueller as technical partners and TV5 as official broadcaster.
Petron - bannered by Adachi, Dindin Manabat, Rupia Inck and Aby Marano - played like a real champion in the opening set, before faltering in the second and third sets, no thanks to its lousy net defense, a handful of unforced errors, and sluggish attacks.
The Blaze Spikers also allowed the Tornadoes triple towers Lindsay Stalzer, Katie Messing, and Jaja Santiago to do damage on both ends, while Filipino-Jamaican Kayla Tiangco-Williams asserted her will on the defensive end down the crucial stretch of the decider.
“Ang naging problema namin, nadala sila ng emotions nila,” Pascua added. “Actually, ang volleyball is more of psychological rather than physical. Natalo kami kasi naglaro sila based sa emotions, not on their willingness and desire to win.”
“Nakalimutan namin mag-enjoy sa game,” he said. “Kailangan talaga na mag-enjoy ka sa game kasi the more na nage-enjoy ka, mas nale-lessen yung pressure at tumataas ang adrenaline mo. At kapag energized ka, mas namo-motivate ang mga kasama mo.”
“Yan ang kailangan namin gawin sa Game Two. Enjoy lang. No pressure.”