Dindin Manabat announced her return on a sizzling note as she powered Foton to a 25-19, 22-25, 25-16, 25-22 victory over Generika-Ayala in the opening salvo of the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix on Saturday at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City.
Sidelined with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury last year, the power-hitting Manabat led the Tornadoes’ furious run in the third and fourth sets to emerge victorious in this prestigious club tourney bankrolled by Isuzu, Rebisco and UCPB Gen with ESPN5 as official broadcast partner.
Manabat fired eight kills and a game-high five aces to finish with 14 points, while American import Brooke Kanda delivered 17 attacks and two blocks to emerge with 21 points for the Tornadoes, who are looking for a rebound after losing the Grand Prix crown to F2 Logistics last year.
Canadian reinforcement Elizabeth Wendel tallied 11 points in her debut in this tourney which also has Mikasa, Senoh, Mueller, LGR, Gold’s Gym and Grand Sport as technical sponsors.
Foton lost the battle in the attack zone, 42-44, but it ruled the blocking department, 8-2, and had more aces, 13-6, to underscore their dominance in the match that lasted for one hour and 36 minutes.
Still, new head coach Rommel Abella stressed that they are still far from gaining their championship form.
“If I’ll put a number on it, I think around 60 to 70 percent pa lang,” said Abella, who took over the slot left by Serbian coach Moro Branislav.
“We’re still a bit stiff and jittery. Hopefully, we could eliminate all the mistakes we had. Anyway, this is still a very good start,” he said.
Abella added that although he was expecting more from their imports, the collective effort of the Tornadoes was enough to carry them through.
“We were expecting a little more,” he said. “But since this is just their first game here in the Philippines, their performance was still acceptable. Hopefully, they can provide us with a little more offense in our next game.”
But the day obviously belonged to Manabat.
Looking fit and deadly after 10 months of rehabilitation and therapy, Manabat was impressive on both ends, especially in the third set where the Tornadoes erected a 12-point advantage, 20-8, to clinch the set victory and build enough momentum for the deciding set.
The Lifesavers hung around and tried to extend the game to a fifth set, 21-23, but Manabat scored on a sharp kill to claim the match point, 24-21, before Kranda connected a strong hit to seal the victory.
“All Dindin needs was mind-setting,” said Abella. “We always ask the PT (physical therapist) about the status of her injury and they always say that it’s a hundred percent healed. So, it’s a good thing she stepped up in this game.”
Darlene Ramdin of Trinidad and Tobago finished with 19 points while Symone Hayden of United States added seven markers for the Lifesavers, who were off to a slow start under the tutelage of new head coach Sherwin Meneses.
Meanwhile, Petron crushed Sta. Lucia Realty in four sets, 25-21, 18-25, 25-17, 25-20, in the second game.
Lindsay Stalzer picked up where she left off, erupting for 22 kills, six aces and two blocks for 30 points while Hillary Hurley had 18 markers for the Blaze Spikers, who are eager to avenge their sorry finals meltdown to F2 Logistics last season.
“We want to start the season on a high note,” said Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos, whose wards unleashed their fighting form in the third set before going for the kill in the fourth to avoid an opening-day mishap.
“This is the kind of game I expect on opening day. I’m glad the girls responded well and embraced the challenge.”
Ukrainian Bohdana Anisova provided the spark with 18 points while MJ Philips chipped in 16 markers for the Lady Realtors.