Despite being the challenger to the crown, Petron will be slightly favored when it clashes with reigning champion F2 Logistics in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference best-of-three finals starting on Tuesday at the Muntinlupa Sports Center.
Foton head coach Moro Branislav and Cocolife mentor Kungfu Reyes picked the Blaze Spikers over the Cargo Movers for their deep bench, vast experience and strength on both ends of the floor.
Reyes, who guided RC Cola-Army to a masterful conquest of the Thailand junior national team en route to the Invitational Conference title last year, also noted that Mika Reyes, Remy Palma and Ria Meneses have the abilities to stop Majoy Baron, who was named Most Valuable Player in the recent University Athletic Association of the Philippines wars.
The first time these two titans met, the Blaze Spikers emerged victorious after more than two hours of battle, 23-25, 23-25, 25-14, 25-15, 15-9.
“This time, I go for Petron,” said Reyes shortly after steering the Asset Managers to an impressive fifth-place finish.
“They have deeper bench, more matured players, efficient setter, effective opposites, stable blocking and good rotation. Aside from that, their middle blockers can stop the middles of F2 Logistics. So it’s going to be a very interesting series.”
Cignal coach George Pascua disagreed with them, however.
Pascua, the chief architect of Petron’s sweep of this conference two years ago, said the character and familiarization of F2 Logistics players with each other would play key roles to their victory.
The Cargo Movers, after all, have been playing together for the past three to five years and have already won several crowns for De La Salle University in the collegiate ranks.
Save for Reyes, the Cargo Movers will also be marching with the same lineup that won the All-Filipino crown last year bannered by Aby Marano, Kim Fajardo, Kim Dy, Ara Galang and Baron.
“The character and familiarization of the players and coaches are already there,” Pascua explained. “They have been preparing for this tournament since last year.”
“F2 Logistics is younger and more aggressive. They have a more solid blocking and reception.”
National women’s team head coach Francis Vicente, for his part, refused to pick any particular team, saying that whoever is hungrier and would play with a lot of heart would definitely bring home the crown.
“Both teams have four national players each so it’s evenly matched,” said Vicente, also the head coach of Generika-Ayala. “Both have tall lineup, aggressive and wanted to win. So their chances of winning the crown would all depend on their championship tactics.”
“It’s going to be a very tight game. It won’t surely be decided until the final buzzer.”