Petro Gazz traces route to PVL title

Emotions pour as Petro Gazz extends its PVL Reinforced Conference reign after a long and bumpy journey. Photo by Rio Deluvio
Emotions pour as Petro Gazz extends its PVL Reinforced Conference reign after a long and bumpy journey. Photo by Rio Deluvio

Petro Gazz's campaign in the 2022 Premier Volleyball League had been a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

From absorbing a heartbreak in the championship to missing the Final Four before eventually hoisting another title, the season was quite a memorable experience for the Angels and their fans.

The Reinforced Conference – the season-ending tournament – was a real-life fairytale written by a team that faced adversities and challenges head-on.

Head coach Rald Ricafort shared that his team's willingness to work together, listen and take to heart his instructions, good chemistry and unquestionable determination to achieve a common goal were crucial.

"We're thankful because most of our players are like a sponge – they absorb everything. They follow our instructions. We're very grateful for their trust and they work as a team. Everyone's willing to do their respective roles and very receptive to instructions," he said.

But the Angels took a long and bumpy road before pulling it off.

Petro Gazz entered the import-laden conference, staged for the first time since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the defending champion but went under the radar as the focus was on the fancied Creamline squad's bid for a grand slam.

Returning F2 Logistics also took the spotlight as it brought in a familiar foreign guest player along with crowd-drawing Choco Mucho, back-to-back bronze medalist Cignal, PLDT as well as newcomer Akari with a young and talented roster backed by an Olympian import.

The Angels had some changes with Ricafort taking the coaching reins while tapping American Lindsey Vander Weide with former imports American Janisa Johnson and Cuban Wilma Salas – who were instrumental in their 2019 title run – unavailable.

In the eliminations, Petro Gazz was driving behind the shadows of Creamline and Chery Tiggo, squads many felt were meant to meet in the finals.

The Angels eventually reached the round robin semifinals but suffered a straight-sets defeat in the opener at the hands of Cool Smashers – the same favored squad that swept them in the Open Conference championship.

Petro Gazz was even pushed on the brink of missing the bus ride to the finals when eventual championship opponent Cignal took a set on the Angels' four-set end of semis win that put the team in danger of ending with a lower tiebreak.

However, fate favored Petro Gazz as Creamline, which needed to win in straight or four sets to take the last finals seat, took the game against Chery Tiggo in five.

"When Chery Tiggo won two sets, we told ourselves that we can't let this opportunity slip away," middle Remy Palma said.

In the championship series, the Angels made sure that they won't give even an inch for the HD Spikers to take away their crown.

Petro Gazz closed the series in two games capped by a 25-17, 22-25, 25-12, 25-21, victory last Tuesday at the Philsports Arena.

"I'm so happy to do it with this team, this is one of the most hard-working teams I've ever been on, and I think we really showed that in our Finals run," Vander Weide, who was named Best Foreign Guest Player and Finals Most Valuable Player, said.

"I have never seen us this focused, until this time, which is the most important. And we pulled it out and got the championship. So I'm so ecstatic, and I'm so happy to do it with this team, once again," she added.

The road has been long for Petro Gazz but the journey was worth it as the club arrived at its destination with another shiny hardware to boot.

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