MANILA, Philippines — MJ Phillips shone bright as a middle blocker, leading her new team Petro Gazz to a convincing 2022 Premier Volleyball League Open Conference debut.
Phillips, back in her middle blocker position before playing as wing spiker in recent years, nailed five of the team’s 12 blocks to finish with 12 points as the Angels beat BaliPure Purest Water Defenders, 25-14, 25-20, 23-25, 25-21, for their first Pool B win on Thursday at Paco Arena.
Petro Gazz coach Jerry Yee said the Filipino-American, who was acquired from the disbanded Sta. Lucia in the off-season, volunteered to be converted to middle blocker since their line-up is composed of several talented wing spikers Myla Pablo, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Grethcel Soltones, Nicole Tiamzon and Jonah Sabete.
“MJ volunteered to play as a middle blocker because she really wants to contribute to the team. We already have a lot of open and opposite spikers on the team,” said Yee.
“Her voluntary conversion to the middle made a huge difference. She has the moves like the running attacks that she’s been doing even before,” he added.
Phillips’ decision to man the frontline is helping Yee, so far, in managing his beautiful problem on the spikers’ rotation.
But the Angels head coach, who was reinstated after working as consultant for Petro Gazz from 2019 to 2021, still wants to make the most of his deep roster in the pool stage that’s why he rotated 11 of his 13 players in their first game.
“We’re trying to utilize our new players. Since this is our first game, we would like to give them playing time. Since we only have three games in the first round, we want to maximize the line-up so we have to field everyone, manage the load and stretch the playing time for everybody,” he said.
No team from the four-field Pool B will be eliminated after the group stage but Yee is hoping to pull off an upset when they battle last year’s runner-up Creamline on Wednesday next week to gain one of the two twice-to-beat advantages in their pool.
“If we beat Creamline, we will be in a good position in the quarterfinals so we have to prepare and work hard. But we can’t lose to PLDT (on Monday) also. If we will be lucky against Creamline, good,” he said.
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