MANILA, Philippines—It was the lucky day of Petro Gazz as it still made the 2022 Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference Finals despite failing to win in straight sets against Cignal on Tuesday at Philsports Arena.
After failing to close out Cignal in the third set after it blew a 24-21 lead, Petro Gazz left its finals fate in the hands of Chery Tiggo.
The Crossovers granted the Angels’ wish after winning the second and third sets to eliminate the Creamline Cool Smashers from finals contention. Creamline needed to win in three or four sets to nail the last finals ticket that’s why its five-set victory over Chery Tiggo still resulted in Petro Gazz making the championship round instead.
Cignal, Petro Gazz, and Creamline were tied at 2-1 to end the semis but the Angels got six points off their two wins which was a point more than that of the Cool Smashers.
Cignal, meanwhile, still clinched the first finals berth by virtue of a superior set ratio despite its 14-25, 21-25, 27-25, 19-25 loss to Petro Gazz in the first game.
Angels rookie coach Rald Ricafort celebrated after the Crossovers dominated the third set that denied the Cool Smashers’ Grand Slam bid and snapped their streak of finals appearances at seven.
“I told them earlier. The fate is no longer in our hands so we can’t do anything but pray,” said Ricafort in Filipino while holding back his tears during the interview. “I couldn’t imagine cheering for another team because they are our opponents but our season lies in the game.”
“We’re lucky. We’ll take it and for sure we will thank Chery. We will make sure to make the most of the finals after getting this opportunity,” he added.
Petro Gazz is defending its throne from the 2019 Reinforced Conference before the import-laden tournament had a three-year hiatus caused by the pandemic.
With only four players remaining from that champion roster namely Djanel Cheng, Jonah Sabete, Cienne Cruz, and Chie Saet, the Angels coach reiterated that their goal this conference is to bounce back from an underwhelming performance in the Invitationals, where they missed the semifinals.
“Our goal was to enjoy the process coming from a conference with just two wins. We wanted to bounce back in this tournament. We went through a lot of ups and downs but in the end, we still made it to the finals through a lucky way,” Ricafort said.
With both teams reaching the finals in a bizarre fashion, Ricafort expects an all-out championship series as his players bannered by Lindsey Vander Weide, Myla Pablo, MJ Phillips, and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas battle HD Spikers’ Tai Bierria, Ces Molina, Ria Meneses, and Rachel Anne Daquis.
“For sure, both teams will be all out in the finals. We will give our best in the finals. With this blessing, I’m sure my players are excited and eager to play in the championship,” he said.
“I’m happy to be part of this new rivalry. We hope to maximize this opportunity. I hope we can sustain our momentum from the win earlier.”