The F2 Logistics Cargo Movers won their second straight PSL Invitational Conference title after surviving a five-set thriller against fierce rivals Petron Blaze Spikers, 25-22, 25-19, 17-25, 22-25, 15-12, Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The Cargo Movers nearly wasted a two-set lead but recovered just in time to prevail in the knockout championship battle and hand the previously undefeated Blaze Spikers their first loss of the conference.
The Cargo Movers punctuated the 2019 season with two consecutive championships, reigning supreme in the All-Filipino and Invitational tournaments following a silver medal finish in the Grand Prix. This is the franchise's fifth overall title since joining the league in 2016.
Kalei Mau, who did not see action in F2 Logistics' only loss at the hands of Petron in the preliminary round, served as the game-changer in the finals. The Filipino-Hawaiian star delivered 30 points built on 27 spikes and three aces.
"My goal was to forget about that first game (against Petron). That wasn't us. I just wanted to bring back our fighting mentality," said Mau. "It was the first game of the season. It's not how you start but how you finish, so I'm super excited that my teammates got to overcome that and look where we are now."
The Cargo Movers jumped to a 9-5 lead in Set 5 after back-to-back points from Mau. Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons retaliated with consecutive kills, followed by an attack error from Mau, to bring the Blaze Spikers within two. Mau immediately made up for her mistake with a backrow hit.
A center line fault was called on F2 Logistics before Des Cheng gave her team a 12-9 lead. Rondina's attempt did not cross the net in the next play but Aiza Maizo-Pontillas connected on back-to-back attacks to keep Petron close. Mau brought her team to match point, then a net touch by Pontillas sealed the deal for the Cargo Movers.
Majoy Baron, who was later named conference MVP, contributed 15 points including four blocks, while Kim Kianna Dy added 14 points. Team captain Aby Maraño put up five blocks to finish with 10 points.
It was mostly a back-and-forth affair in Set 1. F2 Logistics only managed to break away after a 3-0 spurt down the stretch. Baron scored off a block and a quick spike that made it 23-20, but Cheng committed a service error that ended the run. Baron converted another attack to bring it to set point. Rondina responded with a kill but the Cargo Movers grabbed the set by denying Rondina's next attempt.
F2 Logistics wins second PSL Invitational Cup
The F2 Logistics Cargo Movers won their second straight PSL Invitational Conference title after topping the Petron Blaze Spikers.
F2 Logistics continued firing in Set 2, mounting a 22-14 lead before bucking off Petron's last-ditch efforts and completing a 25-19 victory. With their backs against the wall, the Blaze Spikers bounced back strong in Set 3. They closed out the set with a 7-0 rally, highlighted by a block from Chloe Cortez and emphatic attacks from Rondina and Pons, to keep their hopes alive.
Petron had a rousing start in Set 4 but F2 Logistics fought back and tied the score at 15. The two teams showcased their championship form and engaged in a tight duel before Pontillas and Rondina took over in the clutch and forced a deciding set.
Pontillas topped for the Blaze Spikers with 23 points. Pons chipped in 18, all coming from attacks, while Rondina added 14.
Petron still has the upper hand in its head-to-head finals record against F2 Logistics, which now stands at 4-3.