Mighty Petron aims for third straight victory

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Foton’s Dindin Manabat bars Cocolife’s Mary Ann Esguerra from scoring during the Belo-Philippine Superliga Invitational Conference at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan on Thursday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Mighty Petron clashes with struggling new team Cocolife, eyeing a third straight win to fortify its lead in the Belo-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference today at the Malolos Sports Complex in Malolos City.

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Action is set at 7 pm.

Cignal and Sta. Lucia also collide at 3 pm, before Foton and Generika-Ayala clash at 5 pm in this prestigious women’s club tourney backed by Senoh, Mueller, Mikasa and Asics with TV5 as official broadcast partner.

After falling short in the Grand Prix last year, the Blaze Spikers quickly transformed into solid contenders after a massive revamp with the inclusion of star players Rhea Dimaculangan, Carmela Tunay and Mika Reyes.

The recruitment binge paid a handsome reward as they pulled off an impressive win over the Lady Realtors in the opener before stunning another heavyweight in Cignal late Thursday to grab the solo lead with a 2-0 slate.

Stacked against the stronger, more seasoned HD Spikers, the Blaze Spikers recovered from a sluggish start to stretch the match into a deciding fifth set, to underscore their rediscovered power.

But with the game tied at 12, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas unleashed a razor-sharp kill from the opposite followed by blocks by Mika Reyes and Frances Molina on Cignal hotshot Jovelyn Gonzaga, sparking a wild celebration from the Petron gallery.

Reyes, then, scored on a beautiful kill from the middle, giving the Blaze Spikers an emphatic 18-25, 26-24, 14-25, 25-20, 15-12 victory.

Molina and Tunay led the way with 15 and 10 points, respectively, while Reyes chipped in nine markers in their second victory in this season-opening tourney that also has Gold’s Gym as official fitness partner and UCPB Gen as official insurance provider.

“We just stayed together and trusted each other,” said Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos. “But the job is not yet done. This is a very short tournament so we have to win as many games as we can.”

Against the Asset Managers, Petron’s resolve will surely be tested as veterans Michele Gumabao, Denden Lazaro, Wensh Tiu and Iris Patrona are all eager to gain traction following a sorry 16-25, 17-25, 13-25 loss to Foton.

In that match, nothing went right for the Asset Managers as the Tornadoes clobbered them in the spiking (40-19), block (5-4) and service (11-3) departments.

“But we can’t still be complacent,” Delos Santos said. “Just like us, this team also has the power, but is still adjusting. They are dangerous. We may never know what will happen.”

Aside from former La Salle stars in Gumabao, Tiu and Patrona, with former Ateneo defense specialist in Lazaro, the Asset Managers will also be banking on the core of reigning NCAA champion Arellano University like Rhea Ramirez, Andrea Marzan and Jovielyn Prado.

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