Foton, Petron plunge into Superliga GP semis action

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The Foton Tornadoes gear up before a match.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Foton Tornadoes gear up before a match. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

LEGAZPI CITY: Foton and Petron aim to forge a championship rematch when they clash with separate foes in the sudden-death semifinals of the Asics Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix women’s volleyball tournament Saturday at the Ibalong Centrum for Recreation here.

The Tornadoes tip things off when they face RC Cola-Army at 10 am while the Tri-Activ Spikers tackle F2 Logistics in the 5 pm main match of this prestigious club tourney sponsored by Mikasa, Senoh, Mueller and Grand Sport with TV5 as official broadcast partner.

Cignal and Generika also try to close their bid on a high note when they figure in the classification for 5th to 6th places in the 3 pm second match of this triple-header brought here by Legazpi City mayor Noel Rosal, councilor Beth Dimaculangan and JCI Legazpi City.

After slicing through the preliminaries, the Tornadoes are heavily favored with their Serbian coach Moro Branislav pronouncing the semis as the “real battle” where they will unleash all their might and experience they gained from competing in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship two months ago.

Branislav said he would be sticking with his starting roster of Maika Ortiz and Dindin Manabat at the middle, imports Ariel Usher and Lindsay Stalzer at the open and Jaja Santiago at the opposite with veteran Rhea Dimaculangan setting the plays.

But they are tipped to get challenged by the Lady Troopers, who are also looking to make it back to the finals after falling short in the All-Filipino Conference.

In their previous encounter in this tourney that also has Focus Athletics, KLab Cyscorpions, Petron, Foton and F2 Logistics as sponsors last Nov. 19, RC Cola-Army stretched the match to five sets with import Kierra Holst delivering 24 points while generating enough firepower from Jovelyn Gonzaga and Honey Royse Tubino, who punched 17 and 16 markers, respectively.

Branislav said he would come up with all the necessary adjustments to emerge victorious.

“We know RC Cola-Army is such a strong team with a lot of experience,” said the Serbian mentor, who is looking to steer the Tornadoes back to the Asian tourney set in Kazakhstan in April of next year.

“We have to be at our best. This is the real battle and we can’t afford to lose this one. This is a game where we have to show our championship form.”

Also expected to draw a big crowd is the match between Petron and F2 Logistics.

Petron dominated F2 Logistics twice in the preliminaries, but the Cargo Movers are slowly peaking with imports Sydney Kemper and Hayley Spelman doing damage on both ends while Ara Galang, Mika Reyes, Cha Cruz and Aby Marano provide support.

“We want to go back to the finals and avenge our loss to them (Foton),” said Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos, who served as assistant coach of George Pascua when Petron lost to Foton in a thrilling best-of-three finals showdown last year.

“That’s why we’re working hard to make sure that we’re ready. The team vowed to support Steph (Niemer) all the way. So I think we’ll be fine. All we need is to come up with a perfect team game to win over F2 Logistics.”

Aside from Niemer, who destroyed the Cargo Movers with nine aces in their second encounter, Delos Reyes is also pinning his hopes on Serena Warner, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina and CJ Rosario with Jen Reyes and Bang Pineda manning the backline.

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