Cignal, Foton dispute solo lead

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Heavyweights Cignal and Foton gun for the solo lead when they figure in another intense, hard-hitting weekend battle in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference today (Saturday) at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.

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Toting clean 3-0 marks, both the HD Spikers and Tornadoes are tipped to go all out in their 7 pm encounter to gain momentum in this prestigious club tourney bankrolled by Gold’s Gym, Rebisco and Belo with TV5 as official broadcast partner.

Meanwhile, winless Sta. Lucia and Cherrylume hunt for the elusive first victory when the tangle at 3 pm while Cocolife and F2 Logistics collide in the 5 pm second match of this league that also has Senoh, Mueller, Asics, Mikasa and Grand Sport as technical sponsors.

After an impressive performance in the first round, Cignal, Foton, Petron and Generika-Ayala barged into Pool C while struggling F2 Logistics, Cocolife, Sta. Lucia and Cherrylume were relegated to Pool D entering the second round.

Members of both pools will have another round of battles to figure out their respective rankings in the crossover quarterfinals.

The survivors in the quarterfinals will clash in the semifinals for a chance to advance to the best-of-three finals showdown starting July 11.

That’s why this match would be equally important for both Cignal and Foton as another great performance in the second round will pave the way for a lighter load in the crucial stretch of the tourney.

The HD Spikers, champions of the recent Invitational Conference, are coming off a morale-boosting four-set demolition of the Cargo Movers, thanks to their great service strategy and the leadership of grizzled veterans Jovelyn Gonzaga, Rachel Anne Daquis and playmaker Chie Saet.

In fact, the HD Spikers dropped four of their total nine bombs from the service box in the deciding set that broke the back of the Cargo Movers.

But Cignal coach George Pascua stressed that complacency is the last thing on their minds.

“We will be joining other strong teams in the second round,” said Pascua, the architect of Petron’s golden sweep of the All-Filipino Conference two years ago. “So we have to be careful. We have to continue working hard because the stakes are getting higher.”

True enough, Foton will not be a pushover.

Despite competing in a relatively lighter group in the first round, the young wards of Moro Branislav are now starting to catch fire with national team member Jaja Santiago at the helm.

“This is still a long way to go,” said the noted Serbian guru, adding that the 6-foot-5 Santiago is on her way to achieve her peak condition. “Jaja is still catching up with our training after joining the national team in Kazakhstan. So in the second round, I expect her to be at her best.”

Aside from Santiago, also tipped to step up for the Tornadoes are newcomers CJ Rosario, Kyle Negrito and Nica Guliman as well as EJ Laure, Maika Ortiz and Iumi Yongco.

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