PSL: Petron, Army in titanic matchup as Cignal fights for life

Cignal eyes another crucial victory even as heavyweights RC Cola-Army and Petron collide in a titanic duel as third round action of the 2016 PLDT Home Ultera Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference women’s volleyball tournament continues on Thursday at the Filoil-Flying V Center in San Juan.

The HD Spikers (2-2) clash with the eliminated Foton Toplander (1-3) at 6 pm after the undefeated Lady Troopers (4-0) tangle with the Tri-Activ Spikers (3-1) in a battle royale at 4:00.

Bannered by the Benilde troika of Jeanette Panaga, Janine Navarro and Djanel Cheng, Cignal is in dire need of a win to keep its head above water and join the Lady Troopers and a club team from Thailand in the final round that fires off on April 7.

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With their backs against the wall, the HD Spikers came up with some defensive gems before Cheng connected on a pair of service aces to complete a heart-stopping 18-25, 25-13, 25-19, 20-25, 15-12 victory over the erstwhile undefeated Tri-Activ Spikers late Tuesday at the packed Imus Sports Complex in Cavite.

Panaga had a game-high 18 points highlighted by 8 of the team’s 12 blocks while Navarro tallied 12 kills and 2 blocks to finish with 16 points for the HD Spikers, who need to sweep their remaining games against Foton and RC Cola-Army to formalize their entry to the next round.

“It was all about heart and mental toughness,” said Cignal coach Sammy Acaylar. “But this win will be worthless if we will not sweep our remaining games. We still have to work hard and do our homework if we want to advance to the next round.”

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But taking another step closer for a final round berth won’t be easy as Cignal needs to overcome a seasoned Foton side, which will be playing for nothing but pride after getting eliminated following a straight-sets loss—its third in four matches—to RC Cola-Army last Tuesday.

The Toplander were clobbered by the Lady Troopers, 25-21, 25-17, 25-23, but it didn’t dampen their morale as they want to win their remaining couple of games to make a graceful exit shortly after winning the Grand Prix crown last year.

“We will still play with the same level of intensity, the same level of competitiveness that we’ve shown when we won the (Grand Prix) title last year,” said Foton coach Vilet Ponce-de Leon. “We are a veteran team. We will do everything to score a win or two before bidding the tournament goodbye.”

Ponce-de Leon is tipped to lean on her vastly experienced crew of Maika Ortiz, Rhea Dimaculangan, Ivy Remulla and Angeli Tabaquero, who is playing libero as she recovers from a shoulder injury. 

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The clash between RC Cola-Army and Petron, 2 proud teams with a total of 5 crowns between them, should gain a fair share of the spotlight.

The Lady Troopers had a quick start and coasted to 4 straight wins without yielding a single set. On the other hand, the Tri-Activ Spikers nailed 3 wins before surrendering a 5-set decision to the HD Spikers.

“It’s going to be a very interesting match up,” said RC Cola-Army coach Kungfu Reyes, whose wards captured the league’s 1st 3 crowns before taking a hiatus, allowing Petron to win the next 2 titles.

“We are consistent and very composed. We don’t panic even if our opponent is mounting a rally. Petron, meanwhile, is very hungry and eager to bounce back after that setback to Cignal. This is going to be interesting. Whoever comes up with good preparation will surely win the match.” — By Jerome Lagunzad


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