A fitting PSL finale
NOW it has come to pass after six straight conference finals between F2 Logistics and Petron in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) but then the matchup between Cignal and F2 Logistics is certainly a fitting finale too for the ongoing All-Filipino Conference.
Most volleyball fans assumed though that the two regular protagonists would meet for the seventh straight time, more so that Petron finished first and F2 Logistics second after the two round series and dusted off their respective opponents in the quarterfinals en route to the semis where they enjoyed a twice-to-beat advantage.F2 Logistics ran true to form, beating a fighting Foton team in four sets but Petron was shocked in
back-to-back games by Cignal which could only finish fifth after the regular round. Cignal advanced into the finals against the well rested F2 Logistics while Petron and Foton faced off for third place.
I went to the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Saturday to watch both games and stayed at the venue up to 11 p.m. as both matches went into five sets, delighting a very big crowd at hand, predominantly F2 Logistics supporters, that was rewarded with high level games between the four teams. Of course I was rooting for Foton which had not beaten Petron yet this conference and they almost did as the Blaze Spikers won anew in a close game, 28-26, 25-27, 25-21, 24-26, 15-12, with Sisi Rondina exploding with 33 points including the last points for Petron.
I went to the dugout too and commiserated with the team after the loss. There were tears shed by several players including the sisters Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat who played their hearts out, and team owner Rommel Sytin dropped by too and consoled his team. I was invited to the team dinner at Rommel’s house but I wanted to watch live Game One of the F2 Logistics-Cignal game.
It was definitely the last game for Jaja this year as she will be returning to Japan and rejoin her club team Ageo. She will be back April next year but with the promise that Foton will go all the way to the finals this time.
And it was as I said a fitting championship matchup that extended to a fifth set before F2 Logistics regrouped in the deciding set. This was after they won the first two sets, 25-22, 26-24, but were stunned when Cignal came back and took the next two sets, 25-18, 25-17. And when it mattered most, the Cargo Movers regrouped behind Kalei Mau who powered her team to a commanding 9-4 lead from which Cignal never recovered, en route to a 15-8 win, the last points scored by Desiree Cheng and a game-winning block by Majoy Baron to clinch the game.
With the victory, F2 Logistics is set for a rousing finish this Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena. I congratulated team owner Efren Uy on text after the game and he replied he was confident his girls will take the game on Tuesday, a color coded day for me but I will risk it and watch the game.
I went to the media room after the game and head coach Ramil de Jesus and team captain Aby Maraño were there. I asked Ramil what the turning point was in the fifth set and he said when F2 Logistics erected that 8-4 lead with the breaks coming their way for the rest of the game. But he does not discount a comeback by Cignal, reminding all of what their opponent went through to reach the finals and that he does not expect an easy fight at all.
On her part, Aby who was off that night and admitted she lost her confidence in herself for awhile until Ramil told her that as team captain she is not supposed to see her teammates in that frame of mind and she vowed to come back in Game Two.
So what do I see happening in Game Two? Well from the start of the conference, I already said F2 Logistics was the team to beat and I am happy that the team has proven me right and I standby what I said that the Cargo Movers will win the conference, probably on Tuesday, and if Cignal refuses to cooperate, then on the third and final game.
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