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Superliga: Sta. Lucia battles Petron

BATANGAS CITY – Pulling off an earthshaking upset will be Sta. Lucia’s ultimate objective when it clashes with Petron in the sudden-death quarterfinals of the Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference Thursday at the Batangas Sports Coliseum.

Volleyball

Action starts at 7 p.m. with the Lady Realtors looking to spoil the Blaze Spikers’ march to the crown in this prestigious women’s club tourney bankrolled by Isuzu, Mikasa, Senoh, Asics, Mueller, UCPB Gen and Bizooku with Genius Sports as technical partner.

Also shooting for a spot in the semifinals are Generika-Ayala and Smart, who will collide in the 4:15 p.m. opening match of this season-ending conference that also has ESPN5, Hyper HD and Aksyon TV as broadcast partners.

After being hobbled by injuries that sidelined Filipino-American spiker MJ Philips and Chin Basas for the remainder of the season, the Lady Realtors crashed in all of their 10 matches to finish last in the preliminaries and book a quarterfinal duel with unbeaten Petron.

But head coach George Pascua challenged his wards to come up with a strong fight not only to change their fortune but also block the Blaze Spikers’ bid to duplicate a clean sweep of the tournament.

“We don’t want to end up winless,” said Pascua, whose crew bowed to Petron in nail-biting fashion in their previous meeting, 18-25, 25-27, 17-25.

“I told the players to give their all. We don’t want this to be our last game. We will play our hearts out no matter who’s on the other end of the court.”

Petron is looking to rewrite history by coming up with a sweep, a feat it achieved in 2015 with the core of Dindin Manabat, Rachel Anne Daquis and Aby Marano on the lead.

Interestingly, Pascua was the head coach of that record-setting squad with incumbent Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos and Foton deputy Edjett Mabbayad serving as his assistant coaches.

“Yes, I still remember that. We had a very strong team before and nobody beat us until we won the title,” said Pascua, adding that beating the team that he steered to a historic peat is an added motivation.

But prevailing over Petron is easier said than done.

The Blaze Spikers are playing flawless volleyball lately and lost only one set in the second round of the preliminaries.

Delos Santos said their morale is high and are very much ready for the quarterfinals.

“We worked hard in the preliminaries so expect us to work harder in the quarterfinals,” said Delos Santos, who will bank on middle blockers Mika Reyes and Remy Palma anew with Rhea Dimaculangan, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons backing them up.

“Sta. Lucia is a tough team. It’s going to be an interesting match.”

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