CAUGHT up in the euphoria of a successful title-retention drive in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Reinforced Conference, Petro Gazz coach Rald Ricafort couldn’t help but postulate on a naturalized player who could anchor their bid for a coveted Open crown the next time out.
“Perhaps, we’ll have to get a naturalized player,” said Ricafort in jest when asked of the team’s bid for the elusive Open title after back-to-back runner-up finishes to Creamline in the past two editions of the league’s centerpiece tournament.
“The all-Filipino’s tough … because the other teams are that tough—they’re all-star teams,” Ricafort said. “Like Creamline, the Rebisco teams, F2 Logistics. But we keep working hard, who knows, we’ll snatch one someday.”
After retaining the Reinforced crown in emphatic fashion—sweeping first-time finalist Cignal HD on Tuesday night—Petro Gazz now trained its sights on the premier championship and Ricafort and the Angels will have three full months to figure out a way to make things work out when the league kicks off its new season in February.
“We need to work things out, we’re getting there little by little,” he said.
But Ricafort, who took over from the 2019 Reinforced champion coach Arnold Laniog during the off-season, and the Angels would want to savor the moment before plotting their next move.
No Angel relished the championship more than import Lindsey Vander Weide.
“This is by far the most fun I’ve had in a long time playing (volleyball),” said the University of Oregon product, who posted a league first by winning the Best Import and the Finals MVP honors behind her conference-long brilliance.
But it’s the experience playing in the country, she said, that made her journey with the Angels truly memorable.
“I had no idea what I was coming into (playing in the Philippines). This is my first season and I just heard stuff about it and I couldn’t have it any better,” said Vander Weide, who also expressed her great respect and admiration for the fans. “This is just amazing,”
“The Filipino fans are insane. I’ve never experienced something like this in my entire life,” she said. “It’s crazy. I think this is how volleyball fans should be, so I really appreciate them showing up and supporting all the time.”
The heavy-hitting American also hinted at her availability if and when Petro Gazz would need her services in its future campaigns.
“I’d like to come back here. I’m going home for a little bit first. I’m so excited to see my family but I would love to come back here, 100 percent,” said Vander Weide, whose 34-point explosion spiked Petro Gazz’s 25-21, 27-25, 37-35 Game 1 win at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Thursday.
Myla Pablo and Djanel Cheng also basked in the glory of their championship run partly aided by Chery Tiggo’s spoiling of Creamline’s bid in the wild semifinal grind.
“It’s been that long that I tasted a championship,” said Pablo, who won three straight PVL crowns with Pocari Sweat in the 2016 Open and Reinforced Conferences and in 2017 Reinforced.
The former National University stalwart delivered the last two points in their 25-17, 22-25, 25-12, 25-22 title clincher Tuesday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
While top playmaker Cheng said she was delighted to have won her second championship, the former College of Saint Benilde ace would want to enjoy the break first, free from the pressure and away from the spotlight.
“I’m so happy we’re back as champions,” said Cheng, a member of the 2019 champion squad.