F2 Logistics defeat Petron to claim PSL Grand Prix title

F2 Logistics essayed a fitting finale to its storied journey as it hammered a 25-20, 25-19, 20-25, 25-18 victory over Petron to formally claim the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix title before a roaring weekend crowd last Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Veteran Cha Cruz stepped up, delivering crucial hits early on to rally the Cargo Movers to a historic finish in this prestigious club league bankrolled by Mikasa, Mueller, Grand Sport, Senoh, Island Rose, Cloudfone and UCPB Gen.

With the win, the Cargo Movers became the first team to complete a successful rebound from a 0-1 disadvantage since the best-of-three finals format was implemented a couple of years ago.

It was also their second crown since ruling the 2015 All-Filipino Conference of this tourney that also has Gerflor and Gold’s Gym as technical sponsors and ESPN5 as official broadcast partner.

But more than anything, it was a personal feat for import Maria Jose Perez, who took home the Most Valuable Player award over other fancied guest players like teammate Kennedy Bryan, Lindsay Stalzer and Hillary Hurley of Petron and Sara Klisura of Foton, who set a record-breaking 41 points.

The Serbian Klisura, for her part, was awarded as Best Scorer to join Perez, Hurley (1st Best Outside Spiker), Stalzer (2nd Best Outside Spiker), Mika Reyes (1st Best Middle Blocker), Majoy Baron (2nd Best Middle Blocker), Kim Fajardo (Best Setter), Jaja Santiago (Best Opposite), Kianna Dy (Best Opposite), Dawn Macandili (Best Libero) and Yuri Fukuda (2nd Best Libero) in the podium.

“Actually, she’s nursing a broken heart after the passing of her older brother yesterday,” said F2 Logistics head coach Ramil de Jesus, admiring the professionalism of his Venezuelan reinforcement.

“But she hardly showed any emotion. She played great and she led us to this victory.

Cruz, the anchor of the De La Salle University squad that erected a dynasty in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP), delivered 13 kills and three aces to finish with 16 points while Perez spearheaded the attack with 24 kills.

With Cruz moving to the open spiker spot and Kennedy Bryan taking the cudgels at the opposite, which is her original position, the Cargo Movers were simply unstoppable in the first two sets.

The Blaze Spikers’ blocking and offensive execution finally sprung back to life in the third set with American import Hillary Hurley engineering a furious rally, turning a slim 17-18 deficit into a 24-20 lead en route to a 25-20 set win.

But the Cargo Movers refused to give up.

Knowing that the Blaze Spikers are capable of mounting a comeback, Cruz and Perez conspired, erecting a 20-13 lead, leaving the Blaze Spikers running out of gas.

“We know Petron as a very talented team. They have so many weapons,” said de Jesus, stressing that it was a sweet revenge for them after surrendering to Petron in the All-Filipino last July.

“That’s why it’s a sweet victory for us. We made some adjustments and they failed to respond. We also made some key defensive stops that led us to this win.”

Hurley brushed off the sprained ankle she suffered in Game 2 to carry the fight with 22 kills and two blocks for Petron, which nearly clinched the crown had it sustained its hot start in Game 2 of this nerve-wracking best-of-three title series.

The presence of Stalzer, on the other hand, was hardly felt as she tallied only nine markers, no thanks to the solid defense employed by the Cargo Movers.