Stephanie Niemer led a furious Petron rally in the deciding set as her team hammered out a convincing 26-24, 21-25, 25-13, 25-17 victory over Cignal to remain unscathed and on top of the 2016 Asics Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix presented by PLDT Home Ultera on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan City.
A prolific scorer from University of Cincinnati, Niemer spewed fire in the fourth set and helped the Tri-Activ Spikers recover from a rusty start to pull off the win.
With the win, Petron solidified its hold of the leadership with a 4-0 win-loss card.
Its closest pursuer, reigning champion Foton is behind with 2-0, but could inch closer pending the result of its clash with dangerous RC Cola-Army in the third match.
Cignal suffered its second consecutive setback in two starts.
Niemer, who campaigned for PSL-F2 Logistics Manila in the prestigious FIVB Women’s Club World Championship last month, dropped 19 kills and three aces to finish with 22 points while veteran Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Serena Warner had 17 and 12 hits, respectively.
But more than her glowing numbers, it was Niemer’s leadership in the deciding set that steered Petron to this impressive victory.
“We had a slow start in the fourth. But fortunately, we recovered and captured this victory,” said Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos, who served as George Pascua’s chief deputy when Petron won the Grand Prix title two years ago and tallied a historic sweep of the All-Filipino Conference last year.
Petron lorded it over in the attack department, 56-42, while committing less errors, 24-33. Former Cignal playmaker April Ross Hingpit also outshone her counterpart in Filipino-American Shawna-Lei Santos as she emerged with more excellent sets, 32-20.
“I think we should improve our consistency. We have to be good from start to finish, otherwise, other teams would be able to build momentum,” said Delos Santos.
Laura Schaudt knocked down 14 points while fellow import Lynda Morales of Puerto Rico had nine kills and three blocks for the HD Spikers, who failed to draw good numbers from new recruits Janine Marciano, Paneng Mercado and Bernal.