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Niemer, Bell keep Blaze Spikers unbeaten in 12 games

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Reigning champion Petron moved closer to sweeping the preliminaries as it crushed Generika-Ayala, 25-23, 25-13, 25-21, in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Imports Stephanie Niemer and Katherine Bell were very impressive, lifting the Blaze Spikers in the first and third sets en route to their 12th victory in this prestigious women’s club league bankrolled by Asics, Mueller, Mikasa, Senoh, Team Rebel Sports, Bizooku, UCPB Gen, Cocolife, Hotel Sogo and Data Project.

Niemer, who was once considered to be part of the United States national team, fired 19 points with 13 digs while Mika Reyes chipped in 11 kills and three aces for a 14-point effort for the Blaze Spikers, who are two games away from sweeping the preliminaries.

Bell, on the other hand, chipped in 12 markers, including a powerful backrow hit that served as game-winner.

The first – and only – time that a team made a sweep was in the All-Filipino Conference in 2015 when Petron was bannered by the prolific troika of Aby Marano, Dindin Manabat and Rachel Anne Daquis.

The squad posted 13 straight wins to clinch the title.

Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos, who served as assistant to George Pascua during that historic sweep four years ago, said Generika-Ayala gave them a very good fight and their characters were put to an ultimate test.

“Generika played really well,” said Delos Santos, also the head coach of the national women’s volleyball team that will see action in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

“They are willing to take ever set and they made us struggle with our passing.”

Delos Santos, however, assured that they won’t be complacent as they head into the quarterfinals of this battle that also has ESPN5 and 5Plus as broadcast partners.

“Playing in a close game like this is very challenging for us. Good thing we were able to recover,” he said. “We have to learn from this and realize that we can’t afford to struggle, especially since we’re moving closer to quarterfinals.”

The Blaze Spikers squandered a 17-7 cushion as the Lifesavers unleashed a 9-1 run capped by Marlyn Llagoso’s block on Reyes to trim it to within two, 18-16.

But Bell and Niemer gave the Blaze Spikers a 21-18 breather before Ceballos’ hit and Dimaculangan committed a setting violation that put Generika-Ayala just within one, 21-20.

A service error from Ceballos and Reyes’s quick attack gave Petron a 23-20 lead before Patty Orendain answered with a hit of her own but Niemer’s hit and Bell’s poweful backrow attack sealed the win in one hour and 23 minutes.

The Lifesavers‘ three-game winning strea was halted as they dropped to 4-8 with Ceballos and Kanjana Kuthaisong lifting the team with 11 and 10 points, respectively.