Angels soar to PVL Reinforced throne anew after holding off late challenge from HD Spikers

Angels stars (fromleft) Bang Pineda, Myla Pablo, Lindsey Vander Weide and MJ Philips celebrate the final point. —PHOTOS BY AUGUST DELA CRUZ

Angels stars (fromleft) Bang Pineda, Myla Pablo, Lindsey Vander Weide and MJ Philips celebrate
the final point. —PHOTOS BY AUGUST DELA CRUZ

Under fire from an opponent that suddenly found its footing, Djanel Cheng delivered a key point before the Petro Gazz big guns took charge in a fierce endgame kick to seal a 25-17, 22-25, 25-12, 25-22 victory over Cignal and take home the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Reinforced Conference crown on Tuesday night at PhilSports Arena.

“We’re really happy; all our sacrifices, from the players to the coaches, was really worth it,” said Angels coach Rald Ricafort.

It took three years for Petro Gazz to defend the title it won in 2019—the COVID-19 pandemic scrubbed off the tournament for two years—and this time, Lindsey Vander Weide doesn’t want to wait long to win it all again.

“This is one of the most hardworking teams I’ve ever been on and I think we really showed that in our Finals run,” the American, who won the tournament’s Best Import award, said. “I’ve never seen this focus until this time, which is the most important. We pulled it out and got the championship.”

“I’m ecstatic and I’m excited to do it with this team once again,” she added.

Ahead two sets to one and with an 18-11 lead in the fourth, the Angels looked ready to cruise to the championship.

But Ces Molina lit a fire under the HD Spikers from behind the service line and with Tai Bierria finding her offense, Cignal unloaded six straight points to move to within 18-17.

Petro Gazz import Lindsey Vander Weide (left) fires a kill past Cignal’s Riri Meneses.

That was when Cheng outfoxed the Cignal defense with a quick drop to deflate the building pressure. MJ Philips then came up with another crucial point to make it 20-17.

Bierria wasn’t done yet, helping the HD Spikers close in at 20-19 before Vander Weide built three points around a Bierria kill for a 23-20 cushion. Myla Pablo, named one of two best outside spikers of the tournament after the match, pushed Petro Gazz to championship point before delivering the coup de grace.

Cheng finished with 26 excellent sets on top of six points for the Angels as she toyed with the HD Spikers’ defense.

“I’ve played for other teams but I always come back here,” Cheng said. “This [team] is one of my happy places.”

Vander Weide led Petro Gazz with 19 points, while Pablo unleashed 17. Remy Palma also rose to the occasion as she provided five of Petro Gazz’s 12 blocks to finish with 18 points, while MJ Phillips added 12.

In the first game, Alyssa Valdez left the match in the third set after hurting her knee but Tots Carlos and the all-Filipino Creamline Cool Smashers still captured the bronze medal after completing a series sweep of the Chery Tiggo Crossovers, 25-15, 25-19, 23-25, 25-21.

The three-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) hit her right knee hard on the floor while going for a dig in the third set.

The Cool Smashers squandered a 23-22 lead in that set as Jelena Cvijovic and tournament MVP Mylene Paat completed Chery Tiggo’s fightback to extend the match. INQ