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Stephanie Niemer led a furious rally in the deciding set as Petron hammered out a convincing 26-24, 21-25, 25-13, 25-17 victory over Cignal in the 2016 Asics Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix presented by PLDT Home Ultera yesterday at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
A prolific scorer from University of Cincinnati, Niemer spewed fire in the fourth set and helped the Tri-Activ Spikers recover from a rusty start to pull off the win in this prestigious tourney bankrolled by Mikasa, Mueller, Grand Sport and Senoh with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
With the win, Petron solidified its hold of the leadership with a 4-0 win-loss card.
Its closest pursuer, reigning champion Foton is behind with 2-0, but could inch closer pending the result of its clash with dangerous RC Cola-Army in the third match of this weekend battle that also has Focus Athletics, KLab Cyscorpions, Foton, Petron and F2 Logistics as sponsors.
Cignal suffered its second consecutive setback in two starts.
Niemer, who campaigned for PSL-F2 Logistics Manila in the prestigious FIVB Women’s Club World Championship last month, dropped 19 kills and three aces to finish with 22 points while veteran Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Serena Warner had 17 and 12 hits, respectively.
But more than her glowing numbers, it was Niemer’s leadership in the deciding set that steered Petron to this impressive victory.
“We had a slow start in the fourth. But fortunately, we recovered and captured this victory,” said Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos, who served as George Pascua’s chief deputy when Petron won the Grand Prix title two years ago and tallied a historic sweep of the All-Filipino Conference last year.
With Lynda Morales and Laura Schaudt catching fire early on, the HD Spikers threatened to stretch the match to a fifth set as they raced to a 6-0 lead in the fourth.
But the Tri-Activ Spikers did not lose their composure with Niemer attacking the net with authority from almost all angles to turn a 5-10 deficit into an 11-10 lead. Then, she delivered a missile from the service box followed by a powerful backrow attack to give Petron a comfortable 15-10 edge.
Import Laura Schaudt and veteran Venus Bernal tried to pump life into Cignal’s fluctuating chances with three straight hits, but Niemer delivered another powerful hit from the backrow followed by an attack error from Bernal for the final count.