In timely-fashion, they gelled together. Once they did, they were unstoppable – just like a tornado.
It was a Cinderella story for the ages, as the Foton Tornadoes tackled the Philippine Super Liga’s (PSL) 2015 season after having finished in 5th place in last year’s tournament. Led by the powerhouse trio of Lindsay Stalzer, Katie Messing, and Jaja Santiago, the Tornadoes spent the year playing for redemption while incumbent champs Petron Blaze sought a third title to complete their grand slam run.
By the time the Semi-Finals came around, the Tornadoes were the 4th seed team, and hungry for their shot at Finals glory. Led by the seasoned play of Tornadoes captain and former Bradley University star Stalzer, combined with the heroics of Jaja Santiago and veteran import Katie Messing, Foton stunned the Lady Slammers in a thrilling five-set duel, paving their path to the Finals. At that point, the only thing standing between the Tornadoes and their first-ever championship title were Petron Blaze.
“She knows the game here in the Philippines,” said Foton coach Villet Ponce-de Leon of Stalzer. “She is a seasoned player. She is my captain inside the court and she knows the game very well. That’s why we never hesitated to go to her when the going was getting tough.”
With Stalzer, Santiago, and Messing forming a solid 6-foot frontline trio for the Tornadoes, it was the outstanding performances of petite setter Ivy Perez as well as backline defenders Bia General, Kara Acevedo, and Patty Orendain that allowed the team to shine on both offense and defense. Facing an experienced star-studded Petron squad, the timing of when the Tornadoes peaked as a team couldn’t have been better.
Petron’s Aby Marano paced the Spikers with her eight points while Brazilian import Rupia Inck and Frances Molina chipped in seven apiece. With the series stretching to a deciding game 3, Petron were determined to keep the throne and go on to win a rare three-peat. However, it was a match that tested both team’s heart, and it was the Tornadoes who played like champions as they completed their Cinderella run by sweeping the Spikers in 3 straight sets.
“It was really teamwork,” said Foton coach Ponce-de Leon. “All players here in the Superliga are seasoned and are really good. The competition here is tough. So I told the team to work together and win it all. Our teamwork carried us to this victory.”
From dominating performances to stunning upsets, anything can happen in a league where the best compete with the best. Looking back on Foton’s championship run, it taught us that it’s not the number of heavy-hitters you have on your team that will come out on top – it’s the number of players willing to play, sacrifice, and coming together as one that fuel a team to glory.