Opposing teams have much to fear from Petron Blaze Spikers’ (PBS) strongest lineup in PSL-history yet! Right before the season began, Philippine Super Liga (PSL) enthusiasts had already anticipated the tenacity other teams would face from the Grand Prix defending champion. With the powerful combination of Katherine Bell and Stephanie Niemer, and the addition of seasoned PSL player Dennise Lazaro, who was then Cocolife’s star libero, PBS earned the status of team to beat for the 2019 Grand Prix season of PSL. Now that round two has begun, our Blaze Spikers continue to own the unbeatable title blazing with a spotless record!
Katherine Bell launched her career in the PSL as a late replacement to injured import Hillary Hurley at the start of last year’s semifinals. She exceeded expectations, even scoring an all-time PSL high of 42 points during the championship against our longest rival, F2 Logistics, eventually leading PBS in reclaiming the PSL Grand Prix title. It was no surprise she would come back this year to defend Petron’s crown given her stellar performance.
As soon as the return of Stephanie Niemer was officially announced to complete the fearsome twosome the fans had gone from thrilled to rabidly wild, awakening the volleyball community online! Rumored to be retiring this year, the 29-year-old Niemer shows no signs of aging. The world-record holder for unleashing 17 aces in a single match, she once co-led Petron to a runner-up finish in 2016. Not one to be remiss, she is playing to win the championship for the team this time around. Since their first game together, the explosive duo has shown nothing but jaw-dropping performances on court.
It may be standard for the Grand Prix season to put a spotlight on teams’ imports but the local Blaze Spikers have surprisingly been consistent in setting their performance bar higher to support the team. Petron after all has an all-star cast of present and former national team members like Mika Reyes, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Rhea Dimaculangan, Frances Molina and Dennise Lazaro as well as mainstays Remmy Palma and Bernadeth Pons, Chloe Cortez, Pia Gaiser, Angie Legacion, and Carmela Tunay do an excellent job of complementing their plays.
With two games left before the quarterfinals begin, things are looking promising for the squad of Coach Shaq delos Santos. They have not only swept all sets for all games, save the first match against F2 Logistics, but increasingly show growth in teamwork and powerful plays. They are focused on winning and playing the same level of intensity they show on court. Their determination is so evident, it has sparked teams like F2, who they beat twice this season already, to replace their imports in the hopes of bouncing back and standing a chance to make it to this year’s championship. Already, F2 Logistics has recalled a former import to beef up their frontline. UAAP Season 80 MVP Jaja Santiago, fresh from completing her stint with the Japanese V. League Division 1, is also just awaiting official release from her Japanese club to rejoin the Foton Tornadoes Blue Energy and make a push to rise above the cellar.
As they sealed their winning streak at the end of their 12th game against Generika Ayala, they sent out a clear message ― The reigning PSL Grand Prix Champions remain the team to beat and will ensure that they keep the Grand Prix Crown where it rightfully belongs.