No PSL team has ever recovered from a 0-1 finals series deficit, but the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers managed to defy the odds.
F2 needed to light a fire in them to outlast the peaking Petron Blaze Spikers in two straight matches, and one of the players that sparked their incredible comeback is team captain Cha Cruz.
Everything was going right for Petron. Best Outside Spikers Lindsay Stalzer and Hillary Hurley were virtually unstoppable. Their local players also stepped up and worked together to perfectly execute their game plan.
In Game 2, the Blaze Spikers came so close to securing their second straight crown of the season – both at the expense of F2 Logistics – as they only needed one more set to win. They surged to a 9-0 start in the fourth set. The Cargo Movers, however, refused to settle for another runner-up finish.
With their conference on the line, F2 Logistics coach Ramil de Jesus gambled and used a different rotation to shake things up for his team. He pulled Cruz from the bench and placed her in the open hitter position, while utilizing import Kennedy Bryan as opposite.
Fortunately for the Cargo Movers, this critical adjustment paid off.
“Yung rotation ko na yun, di pa nila na-solusyunan, so yun na rin yung ginamit ko this game,” De Jesus said after clinching the 2017 Chooks-to-Go PSL Grand Prix title on Saturday.
He added, “Alam naman natin yung Petron talagang mahirap kalaban, halos lahat ng talented players nasa kanila na. So siguro mas ginusto lang ng players ko na manalo,” he added. “Kita nyo naman nung Game 2, 9-0. Sino ba’ng mag-aakala na makakabangon pa yung team namin na ganun yung score?”
Cruz heeded the call of his long-time coach, whom she also worked with in her collegiate playing years with the DLSU Lady Spikers. She came into the contest, reinvogarated her team, and became a key factor in their huge Game 2 comeback.
“If you’re gonna focus sa score na malayo, hindi talaga eh. We know in our hearts na ayaw namin mag-give up so pinangatawanan namin yun,” she said.
After doing damage in the crucial moments of the previous match, Cruz ended up with another vintage performance in the deciding Game 3 as she posted 16 points off 13 attacks and three service aces, including one that brought F2 closer to championship point.
The former two-time UAAP Finals MVP displayed her clutch genes, proving that she can still deliver when her team needs her the most.
“Every practice naman yun eh, mataas talaga nilalaro ni Cha. Saka hindi sya kuntento na nasa bench lang sya talaga,” De Jesus said about her team captain. “Kung baga, nakikita mo lagi na nagpapakita ng interes na gusto talagang makatulong sa loob ng court. Palagi syang ganun.”
The 29-year-old spiker downplayed her role in their back-to-back victories and gave credit to the whole team for inspiring her to fight until the end.
“Mindset namin was kailangan lahat kami gagana, lahat kami magbibigay ng best. I was really happy na lahat talaga kami showed our best,” she said. “Noong tinitignan ko yung mga teammates ko sa mata, there was fire na we really want this game. When you see that, you just wanna give best your best too.”
Cruz humbly shared that she’s just grateful for the opportunity to be on the floor and help the Cargo Movers notch their first Grand Prix crown.
“I believe in God’s perfect timing kasi ngayon nakalaro ako and I was able to contribute para makuha namin ‘yung goal namin. I’m just very happy na all my coaches and my teammates really trust me,” she expressed.
“Coming from Game 2 na nakuha namin in a very hard way, it’s also a sign for me na God is giving us an opportunity na sa amin ‘yung Game 3. Hindi naman namin mao-overcome ‘yun ng wala lang. Worth it lahat.”