Cignal booted top seed and twice-to-beat Petron off the throne in a dramatic five-set semifinals conclusion, 30-28, 25-21, 17-25, 23-25, 15-8, on Thursday to advance in the Finals of the 2019 Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Jovelyn Gonzaga and Rachel Anne Daquis conspired to help the HD Spikers pull off one of the league’s biggest upsets and set up a best-of-three championship series against F2 Logistics.
Game 1 of the Finals is on Saturday at the Big Dome.
Cignal, which stunned the star-studded Blaze Spikers also in five-sets in the series opener on Tuesday, stepped on the gas pedal in the fifth set as Daquis and Gonzaga orchestrated an 8-0 scoring blast to give the HD Spikers an 11-4 advantage.
The HD Spikers made Petron crumble after Ranya Musa and Roselyn Doria put Cignal at match point, 14-7, before setter Alohi Robins-Hardy hammered the last nail on the Blaze Spikers’ coffin with a drop ball as the squad marched into its first AFC Finals since joining the league in its inaugural outing back in 2013.
“Sabi ko na lang ilaro niyo na lang ‘yung laro ninyo. Kung sino ang matapang yun ang mananalo, kung sino yung nenerbyosin sila matatalo,” said Cignal coach Edgar Barroga, whose wards snapped Petron's 12-game winning streak in the series opener.
Daquis led the HD Spikers with 22 points including 18 attacks while adding 12 excellent receptions. Gonzaga, who played her third straight five-setter match after seeing action for Army in the Premier Volleyball League Wednesday, posted 17 markers and 21 digs for Cignal.
Ranya Musa had 12 points, Janine Navarro scored 10 while Robins-Hardy dished out 32 excellent sets on top of seven markers for the HD Spikers, who in this conference faced Petron four times, all in five sets.
Cignal won the two most important head-to-head games against the Blaze Spikers this conference.
“Sobrang pinag-aralan namin sila. Alam namin nasa amin ang momentum, nasa Petron ang pressure pero hanggang sa huli lumaban sila so kudos to Petron,” said Barroga, whose squad spoiled an eighth straight Petron-F2 Logistics finale. “Bilib ako sa kanila sobra lang nagtrabaho yung mga players namin.”
Sisi Rondina paced the Blaze Spikers with 20 points, Ces Molina had 19 while Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Mika Reyes got 15 and 11, respectively.
Petron will take on Foton in the knockout battle for third.