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Bell rings win for Petron over Cocolife

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Katherine Bell made a strong first impression in powering Petron to a 25-18, 23-25, 25-16, 25-23 victory over Cocolife in Game 1 of their Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix best-of-three semifinals series at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

Coming in as a late replacement to Hillary Hurley, Bell was simply impressive as she shone brightest at the attack zone to give Petron an early lead in this blockbuster showdown bankrolled by UCPB Gen and Isuzu with ESPN5 as official broadcast partner.

Should Petron win Game 2 on Thursday, it will clash with the victor of the other semifinal pairing between reigning champion F2 Logistics and Foton, who are still clashing at press time.

Bell, a versatile 25-year old spiker who led University of Texas to four Final Four appearances including a title in the NCAA in 2012, came through with 27 attacks to finish with 29 points for the Blaze Spikers, who are looking to redeem themselves after falling short in the finals last year.

Former Most Valuable Player awardee Lindsay Stalzer was also stunning as she chipped in 19 kills, two aces and two blocks for 23 hits while Mika Reyes and Frances Molina tallied nine and eight markers, respectively.

“What happened to us in the finals (last year) was a lesson learned,” said Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos, who is looking to bring his team back to the finals of this tourney that also has Mikasa, Senoh, Asics, LGR and Grand Sport as technical sponsors for fifth consecutive year.

“We don’t want it to happen. Despite this win, we will still work hard and polish our lapses in our game.”

Delos Santos added that the gamble they made in bringing in a new import in Bell appears to be paying off.

“She just arrived last week and has been with us for only nine days. We’re so lucky that the schedule was adjusted so we had time to adjust. Anyway, it wasn’t a major adjustment. She’s very jolly and easy to get along.”

After cruising to a first set win, the Blaze Spikers found themselves in trouble as Serbians Sara Klisura and Marta Drpa rallied the Asset Managers to a 21-17 lead in the second set.

Petron managed to tie it at 21 before Klisura connected on a booming kill followed by an ace from Jane Gonzales to give Cocolife on the verge of knotting the match at 1-1.
“We were relaxed in the second set,” Delos Santos said. “Good thing we managed to recover in the third set. We will study all our lapses in the second set and improve it next game, especially our passing and reception.”

Drpa tallied 26 points while Klisura chipped in 18 markers for Cocolife, which is looking to make it to the finals for the first time since joining the league last year.