Johnson stars as BaliPure defeats PetroGazz in Wednesday thriller

PetroGazz import Kadi Kullerkann (left) defies BaliPure’s defense made up of Ivy Lacsina and Michela Belen with a kill during their PVL Reinforced Conference Season 2 showdown at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.

Janisa Johnson unleashed a fiery Premier Volleyball League debut, hammering in 27 attack points as BaliPure thwarted PetroGazz in a thrilling 22-25, 25-23, 28-26, 22-25, 15-12 victory to get back into the thick of things in the Reinforced Conference at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan yesterday.

Unable to suit up for the Purest Water Defenders’ losing four-game stand against the Iriga-Navy Lady Oragons last week, the power-hitting American poured it all against the Angels, finishing with a 31-hit game, the last coming off a combination play that ended the back-and-forth two-hour encounter.

The also came up with four aces.

The Water Defenders, backstopped by the young members of the Nazareth School of National U, broke off a tight 8-all count in the fifth by racking up four straight aided by their rivals’ service and attack errors. They held sway from there, fending off the Angels’ rally at 12-14.

The victory thus put BaliPure in step with defending champion Pocari-Air Force at joint fourth at 1-1 with BanKo-Perlas and Tacloban, also with 1-1 slates, disputing a share of the lead at presstime.

In men’s division of the season-opening conference of the league organized by Sports Vision and backed by Mikasa and Asics, Cignal, with former Ateneo star Marck Espejo firing 22 kills, stopped newcomer Vice Co., 25-23, 20-25, 25-23, 25-21, while Instituto Estetico Manila, led by Mark Alfafara’s 21-hit game, outlasted PLDT, 14-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-22, 15-12.

Johnson, who arrived late last week to fulfill her commitments in a French league, drew solid support from Princess Robles, who came through with 17 points while Alexis Matthews added 15 markers.

“Johnson’s addition is really greatly appreciated today. I like her style of game – quickness, speed and agility. She’s got a lot to offer. So many things she could do inside the court,” said BaliPure-NU coach Babes Castillo.

“I can learn from them and they can learn from me. It’s a nice breather to be on the court with them,” said Johnson of her teammates who are built on the core of reigning UAAP girls volleyball four-peat titlist Nazareth School.

Anastasia Trach of Ukraine hammer in 22 points while Kadi Kullerkann of Estonia returned from a one-game absence due to a swelling knee and made 21 points. Rachel Austero also had 10 hits for the Angels who fell to 0-3.