Using its vast championship experience, the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers claimed Game 1 of the best-of-three finals series in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) All Filipino Conference, outlasting the Cignal HD Spikers in five sets, 25-22, 26-24, 18-25, 17-25,15-8, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Saturday.
The Cargo Movers leaned on their partisan crowd and outside spiker Kalei Mau, who churned out 27 points to keep their feisty opposition at bay. Mau, the frontrunner for this conference's MVP plum, scattered 25 attack points, one block and one ace to move her squad to within a win of its second AFC crown -- first since their maiden season in 2016 -- and her first championship in her PSL career.
Majoy Baron and Ara Galang contributed 11 points each to lead a well-balanced support crew, while Dawn Macandili came away with 33 excellent digs as F2 Logistics forced their opponents to 35 errors.
Janine Navarro led the scoring parade for the HD Spikers with 16 markers but had to overcompensate for the subpar performance of skipper Rachel Anne Daquis, who could only manage five points.
After a tightly contested opening set won by the Cargo Movers, F2 Logistics threatened to pull away in the second when they opened up an 11-3 advantage. But Navarro and former league Jovelyn Gonzaga led a searing rally that tied things up at 23 apiece. The Cargo Movers, however, got the necessary defensive stops to barely edge past Cignal to take the second in extended fashion 26-24.
The third set was a completely different story as Mylene Paat and Fil-Hawaiian setter Alohi Robins-Hardy conspired to force de Jesus to tinker with his line-up in hopes of finding a combination to quell the Cignal onslaught-to no avail. It was the HD Spikers' first won set against F2 Logistics all season long.
For good measure, Cignal did it again in the fourth set.
Paat continued her dominance to the dismay of the dwindling net defenses of the Cargo Movers as Cignal erected its biggest lead of the match at 22-13 and held on to finish off their foes 25-17 to enter their third straight five-setter in three consecutive game days.
But whatever kept F2 Logistics in a funk in the previous two sets seemed to dissipate in the fifth as they raced to out of the gates with a 3-0 lead forcing an early timeout from HD Spikers mentor Edgar Barroga. That still couldn't halt the resurging net defenses of the Cargo Movers led by Baron, Dy and skipper Aby Maraño as F2 Logistics secured the triumph.
Game 2 is on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Earlier, the ousted titlists Petron Blaze Spikers were dragged into their third consecutive five-setter by the Foton Tornadoes Blue Energy but emerged victorious, 28-26, 25-27, 25-21, 24-26, 15-12, behind a career-high 33 markers from reigning UAAP Finals MVP Sisi Rondina to garner a podium finish by winning the bronze medal.
"Coach (Shaq de los Santos) said that we can't always be on top all the time," said Mika Reyes. "It's a good reminder for the team that we also need to beef up and we just can't stop (progressing). It's very challenging that we were going for that 'three-peat' and it's disheartening and painful (that we came up short)."