IT was a banner 2018 for Petron in the Philippine Superliga - whether it is on the taralex or the sand court.
The Blaze Spikers captured the All-Filipino and Grand Prix crowns while winning a second straight Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup tiara behind the prolific duo of Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons.
F2 Logistics - Petron’s biggest arch rival in the past three years - averted a sweep by ruling the mid-season Invitational Conference.
It may have failed to complete a sweep, but it’s still a mission-accomplished for the Blaze Spikers after clinching the crown of the All-Filipino Conference at the expense of the Cargo Movers in the best-of-three series that went into full route.
“Honestly, we really never thought of completing a sweep. We know how tough the competition is and winning all of our games will be very impossible. So instead of eyeing a sweep, what we did was to prepare hard everyday, give our best and respect our opponents,” said Delos Santos.
Veteran setter Rhea Dimaculangan emerged as Most Valuable Player while Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Pons delivered the firepower in the title clincher for the Blaze Spikers, whose bid to duplicate a sweep of the conference was foiled by a sorry four-set loss in Game 2.
“I just told them to bring back the old fire that made Petron successful in the past,” said Delos Santos after capping a very successful campaign of San Miguel Corp. sports teams this year following the victory of San Miguel Beer, Ginebra and Magnolia in the PBA.
In the Grand Prix, it was such an emotional victory for the Blaze Spikers as they finally overcame three years of heartaches in what is billed as the toughest, most competitive conference of the league.
Petron penned a fitting end in its quest for redemption when it finally clinched the Grand Prix crown before a roaring weekend summer crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Imports Lindsay Stalzer and Katherine Bell were the stars of the show as they spearheaded the Blaze Spikers to a thrilling 2-1 series win against F2 Logistics.
And for Stalzer, there’s nothing sweeter than being back on top.
“Of course, it feels amazing,” said Stalzer shortly after winning her second Grand Prix title and second Most Valuable Player award.
“Last season left a bitter taste in my mouth. So, it’s so awesome when you set a goal and you work towards that goal every single day and it finally paid off. It’s a great feeling for all of us.”
Stalzer admitted that the trail back to the throne was littered with a lot of tears and frustrations.
“We don’t have to be pressured. This is just volleyball. We have to play our normal game if we want to win the crown,” said Stalzer.
Petron even dominated the sand court, as the fancied pair of Rondina and Pons dominated Sta. Lucia's DM Demontaño and Jackie Estoquia to capture the gold medal in the Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup.
Rondina and Pons won all of their five matches to rule the competition for the second straight season.
Notwithstanding limited preparations, erstwhile collegiate rivals Rondina and Pons were still able to rule the tournament for the second straight year.
“We’re glad to survive another tough tourney,” said Rondina.
“I want to say thank you to (Pons). At least our connection is still there.”
The Cargo Movers were able to pull one off against the Blaze Spikers in the Invitationals.
After a close Game 1, F2 Logistics erupted in Game 2 as Ara Galang and Aby Maraño shone to clinch the mid-season championship via two-game sweep.
Galang emerged as Most Valuable Player, while Maraño, the Cargo Movers charismatic leader, proved why she is one of the league's best in the middle.
Unless other teams step up this year, the Petron-F2 Logistics rivalry will continue.
In the inaugural Grand Slam, University of the Philippines continued its off-season success as it took down University of Santo Tomas in the finals to emerge as the first-ever champions.
“We fought because that’s out motto of the day. We fought to the end and it worked,” said Lady Maroons coach Godfrey Okumu.
“We fought until the end. Even if when we were down we just kept on reminding ourselves that we have to fight. That’s what we came here to do today,” he added.
Tots Carlos, fully recovered from an injury that sidelined her in another off-season tournament, was named the Most Valuable Player.