VOLLEYBALL

Cignal, Petron battle for lead

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An early clash of the Philippine Superliga titans happens today as heavyweights Cignal and Petron clash for a hold of the lead of the Belo-PSL Invitational Conference at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.

Two of the strongest teams, the HD Spikers and the Blaze Spikers collide at 7 pm, following the 5 pm batter between Cocolife and Foton in the 5 pm this prestigious women’s club tourney bankrolled by Mikasa, Asics, Senoh and Mueller with TV5 as official broadcast partner.

After a string of unfortunate finishes, the HD Spikers made an off-season revamp and netted three of the best players in the country in Jovelyn Gonzaga, Honey Royse Tubino and Rachel Anne Daquis. They also tabbed Maica Morada to join an already solid crew led by Paneng Mercado, Janine Marciano, Cherry Vivas and Jheck Dionela.

The outcome of their debut match was very impressive as they eked out a pulsating 26-24, 20-25, 26-24, 13-25, 15-9 victory over powerhouse Foton on opening day of this tourney that also has Gold’s Gym as official fitness partner and UCPB Gen as official insurance provider.


Gonzaga led the way with 17 points while Paat and Daquis had 11 and 10 markers, respectively, as the HD Spikers displayed solid blocking prowess and a well-balanced offensive thrust in the marathon match that lasted two hours and 20 minutes.

The HD Spikers’ resolve would be tested as the Blaze Spikers will also be marching with sky-high morale.

After acquiring stars the Philippine Sportswriters Association’s Ms. Volleyball Mika Reyes and Carmela Tunay during the off-season, Petron flexed its muscles right away and made quick work of Sta. Lucia, 25-19, 25-19, 25-21, in its first match.

Reyes and Tunay delivered nine points apiece while team captain Frances Molina chipped in eight markers for the Blaze Spikers, who dominated the Lady Realtors from start to finish despite drawing limited offensive output from veteran Aiza Maizo-Pontillas.

Cignal coach George Pascua said they have done their homework and will use their experience and deep familiarity with Petron’s system to win.

Pascua had guided Petron to a historic 13-0 sweep of the All-Filipino Conference in 2015 while Daquis and Morada served as his key players. Gonzaga, for her part, is also quite familiar with her counterpart, Maizo-Pontillas, after playing with her in the beach volleyball competition of the Southeast Asian Games in 2011.

“We’re very familiar with Petron and we will use it as our biggest asset,” said Pascua, adding that he is excited to face the Blaze Spikers after guiding them to a pair of titles and three finals appearances before moving to Cignal in the off-season.

“Also, one of our advantages over them is that we have reliable leaders on the floor. The experience and leadership of Rachel, Jovelyn and Maica is something you can’t ignore.”

Also tipped to draw a massive weekday crowd is the battle between Cocolife and Foton.

Despite falling short against Generika in their debut match, hopes are still high on the Asset Managers as Michele Gumabao delivered some flashes of brilliance while newly crowned NCAA champions Andrea Marzan, Rhea Ramirez and Mary Anne Esguerra of Arellano University proved they can play beautiful music with veterans Wensh Tiu, Rosemarie Vargas and Erika Alkuino.

Former Ateneo star Denden Lazaro will also make her much-awaited PSL debut against Foton, the same team that drafted her two years ago.

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