A very long night in CDO
IT was the very first time that the Philippine SuperLiga has brought women’s volleyball action in Cagayan de Oro City with a doubleheader featuring the game between PLDT Home Fibr against F2 Logistics and the main event between Petron and Foton.
Believe me, it proved to be a very long night for me, the players and the fans last Saturday.
I went with the Foton team to continue with our mental strengthening program for the team as a teambuilding facilitator and not as a sportswriter. And I had a session with the girls the day before their game against Petron and it might have helped because Foton fought toe-to-toe with the heavily favored Petron all the way to a fifth and deciding set before allowing the Blaze Spikers to escape with a 25-23, 24-26, 2-26, 25-22, 19-17 hard-earned victory.
It was a game that had ironically former Foton player Sisi Rondina leading her Petron team to victory with 32 points supported by Ces Molina and Mika Reyes with 13 points apiece. Foton was again led by Jaja Santiago and sister Dindin Santiago-Manabat, though it was Dindin who really played her heart out with 31 points while Jaja scored 26 markers.
In fact the first game was also a five-setter with PLDT pulling off an upset win against F2 Logistics, 25-21, 26-28, 15-25, 25-19,15-11. This plus the fact that the ACU at the Corpus Christi gym conked out during the third set of the first game, forcing the organizers to suspend action for about an hour as the temperature reached 32 degrees already and that really contributed to it being a very long night.
But it was well worth for the big crowd of local volleyball fans who paid from P400 to P2,500 for tickets just to watch the action as both games were played at a high level. And even as the ACU was being repaired, most of the fans stayed inside the sweltering gym, afraid to lose their vantage seats if they go out.
I had an idea that there would be a big crowd that afternoon as I also went to the Greet and Meet event at the Limketkai Mall for all the four teams as there was a big crowd, including those who paid to get a chance to ask questions, get autographs of the players and of course the selfies with superstar players Aby Maraño, Mika Reyes, Jaja Santiago and Sisi Rondina proving to be the most popular with the crowd at hand. For me, I was there for the Eat and Meat part as lunch was served at the Kagay-anon restaurant in the mall and I had a chance to be with all the players from the four teams.
I also saw fans patiently waiting for the players after the games. And mind you it was already late then and when we got back to the Country Village Hotel where both Foton and F2 Logistics were staying, and this was 1 a.m. already, there were still some fans waiting for their opportunities to have pictures taken with the players. Of course, the sisters Jaja and Dindin were the most requested photo ops by the fans.
The Foton-Petron game started almost 8 p.m. from the original 6 p.m. sked because of that ACU problem but I certainly did not expect it to finish close to 11 p.m. And so we ended up with a very late dinner after the game hosted by the auntie of Maharlika basketball player Ron Lastimosa, the boyfriend of Foton team manager Diane Santiago, at the aunt’s Pueblo de Oro residence where we arrived almost midnight. But we certainly could not refuse the very good food, including two lechons waiting for us and again there were neighbors and relatives waiting for the arrival of the team to have pictures taken too with the players.
The truth is, food was good anywhere we ate, Buffalo Wings, Minindal, which was in an elevated area of the city, and Kagay-anon, and the local folks were all friendly and hospitable. And how can you beat mangosteen available at only P50 per kilo compared to Manila prices of as much as P300 per kilo, of course I brought home some courtesy of Diane.
Going back to the Foton team, even as early as the third game, and seeing how the girls were playing at that high level, I really believed no matter who wins, the team was ready for the quarterfinals which will start later this week after finishing off its last regular playing day that will determine the final team standings and the pairings for the knockout playoff in the quarterfinals. And from what I saw, Foton would be ready for any team it meets here.
I had to remind them though not to take for granted their last opponent for the second round, winless Marinerang Pilipina and a 3-0 victory would affect the final standings of Foton. As it is, Petron and F2 Logistics took the No. 1 and No. 2 positions and will meet the eighth and seventh ranked teams. What is uncertain would be the other pairings until after the very last game of the second round. But whoever Foton plays, I think they are ready.
I will certainly be there at the games, why don’t you be there too?
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