GREATEST PERFORMANCES: Angels’ miraculous comeback
Mark Escarlote on Jul 09, 2020 05:19 PM
(Photo: Josh Albelda)
PetroGazz was considered a dark horse when it joined the Premier Volleyball league two years ago.
The Angels surprised everyone when it toppled a powerhouse the following season.
Despite just being in its second year in the league, PetroGazz displayed an impressive performance when it shocked then reigning champion Creamline in the best-of-three Finals series of the 2019 Reinforced Conference that went the full distance.
It’s true that the Angels paled in comparison to the Cool Smashers when it came to big names in their local lineup.
Creamline was obviously the favorite during the championship series with its experience and a star-studded crew led by Alyssa Valdez, setter Jia Morado, Michele Gumabao, Risa Sato and Mel Gohing backed by Thai import Kuttika Kaewpin and towering Venezuelan Ale Blanco.
The first game as expected went to Creamline in four sets although marred by a late controversial call.
The next two games were nothing short of miracles.
American Janisa Johnson and Cuban Wilma Salas willed the Angels back in the series three days after getting their backs pushed against the wall.
That game didn’t start the way PetroGazz wanted it to but the Angels were quick to recover to walk away with a four-set revenge win and force a rubber match – scheduled the following day on the highlands of Antipolo.
“I mean after the first set it was like okay a reality check and it kicked in,” said Johnson after that all-important Game 2 in where she and Salas dropped 23 points each. “It’s now or never so we kicked in just in time.”
With momentum on its side, the Angels controlled Game 3 early on.
PetroGazz did tumble in the extended second frame and had to hang tough in the closing stretch of the third following a 22-22 tie.
Salas and Johnson did their usual role on offense but it was the locals led by Jeanette Panaga, Cherry Nunag, Jonah Sabete, setter Djanel Cheng and libero Cienne Cruz that stepped up big time to help dismantle Creamline with a 25-15, 28-30, 25-23, 25-19 victory to clinch PetroGazz’s breakthrough crown.
"Answered prayers. These two imports namin played a big role but again siyempre as a team talaga di naman namin makukuha ito basta-basta kung walang help ng locals," said PetroGazz coach Arnold Laniog. "But the moment na nag-commit talaga sila doon sa goal namin, sabi ko 'Atin na di na talaga papakawalan.'"
Many would argue that the Angels won their breakthrough title relying on the caliber of their imports.
PetroGazz would deflect its doubters by saying that it was a collective effort from the team.
It’s true that the Angels that time tapped the services of a pair of top foreign imports.
But isn’t the Reinforced Conference a tournament about imports? A test for the management of clubs to pluck the best reinforcements to complement their locals?
No one can deny that PetroGazz indeed made a miracle happen… against a team that had good imports and the deepest local lineup in the league.
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