Cignal is now being tipped as the heaviest contender when the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix fires off on October 8 at The Arena in San Juan City.
After a major overhaul, the HD Spikers are expected to dominate the field with the return of former Most Valuable Player (MVP) Venus Bernal and the recruitment of Janine Marciano, Stephanie Mercado, Mylene Paat, Lourdes Patillano and Filipino-American setter Shawna-Lei Santos into the team.
They will be powered by 6-foot-5 American open spiker Laura Schaudt and Lynda Morales, who skippered the Puerto Rican national women’s team in the Rio Olympics this year.
Reigning champion Foton also had a massive upgrade with the recruitment of 6-foot-3 Dindin Manabat to join her sister, 6-foot-5 Jaja Santiago, Maika Ortiz and Angeli Araneta at the middle position. Last year’s MVP, Lindsay Stalzer will be back and will conspire with Ariel Usher in helping the Tornadoes defend the crown.
Seasoned Serbian guru Moro Branislav will call the shots after replacing Fabio Menta of Italy.
Not to be outdone, F2 Logistics, RC Cola-Army, Generika and Petron will also parade souped-up rosters.
The Cargo Movers will still be bannered by Aby Marano, Cha Cruz, Mika Reyes, Ara Galang, Kim Fajardo and the core of UAAP champion La Salle, but they also drafted Djanel Cheng and Janine Navarro, who both led College of Saint Benilde to the NCAA title.
They, however, still couldn’t decide yet on who among Sydney Kemper, Nicole Walch, McKenzie Adams and Melissa Toth will serve as their reinforcements.
RC Cola-Army, on the other hand, will be marching intact with Tina Salak, Rachel Anne Daquis, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Honey Royse Tubino, Nene Bautista and Jennie Delos Reyes reporting for duty. Former US juniors national team member Kierra Holst and Hailie Ripley will suit up as imports.
“All teams have obviously upgraded their respective rosters,” said PSL president Ramon Suzara, who is also a ranking member of the Asian Volleyball Confederation and International Volleyball Federation. “But it’s still a very balanced field. As we see in the previous conferences, strength on paper alone wouldn’t be enough to bring home the crown.”
Generika, meanwhile, called on former Trinidad and Tobago national team member Darlene Ramdin and Ukrainian sensation Polina Liutikova to power the core of Rubie de Leon, Chloe Cortez, Ria Meneses, Gen Casugod and Shaya Adorador.
Spotlight will also be trained on Petron as high-flying Stephanie Niemer, who is said to be the league’s most explosive import in the pre-season, will suit up together with 6-foot-5 middle blocker Serena Warner as well as the local crew of Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina, Jen Reyes and Bang Pineda.
An explosive double-header will be featured on the opening day with F2 Logistics and Generika clashing at 12:30 p.m. while the protagonists in last year’s finals, Foton and Petron, renew their rivalry in the main game at 3 p.m.