BIÑAN CITY: Things are expected to get rocky for Foton Pilipinas when it battles powerhouse Ba’yi Shenzheng of China in the sudden-death quarterfinal round of the 2016 Asian Women’s Club Championship Friday at the Alonte Sports Arena here.
Action starts at 1:30 pm following the other quarterfinal duel between NEC Red Rockets of Japan and T. Grand of Chinese Taipei at 11:30 a.m. and the classification round match between Kwai Tsing of Hongkong and the Malaysian national team at 9:30 am in the first game of this prestigious tourney organized by the Philippine Superliga, Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. and the city government of Binan headed by Congresswoman Len Alonte.
Also expected to provide fireworks in the crucial stretch of this tourney which also has SMM Sport, Nike, Senoh, Asics, Mikasa, Foton, BMW, Rexona, PLDT and Price Waterhouse Cooper as sponsors with Crimson Hotel as official residences and TV5 and SMMTV as official broadcast partners are Altay VC of Kazakhstan, which will face Sarmayeh Bank of Iran at 4 p.m, as well as reigning champion Bangkok Glass of Thailand, which will clash with Thongtin Lienvietpost Bank of Vietnam in the night cap at 6:30 p.m.
But still, all eyes will be focused on Foton Pilipinas.
After opening the tourney with a rousing straight-set win over Kwai Tsing, the Tornadoes melted under extreme pressure as they surrendered a five-set decision to the Vietnamese followed by another three-set setback to the Japanese as American import Lindsay Stalzer was sidelined with back spasms.
Stalzer returned the following day, but her presence was not enough to rally the Tornadoes, leaving them with a heart-breaking straight-set loss to the Kazakhs to book a quarterfinal duel with Ba’yi Shenzheng, which cornered the top seed in the other group after escaping past the Thais in an epic five-set showdown.
The Chinese seem indestructible.
With Liu Yanhan running the show, Ba’yi Shenzheng is said to be the strongest contingent in this Asian tourney as its core is said to be composed of the second team of the Chinese national women’s team, which dominated Serbia in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last month.
Liu, the Most Valuable Player in the Asian U23 Women’s tourney held in Manila last year, delivered 25 of her game-high 28 points on kills while 20-year old Wang Yunlu chipped in 16 hits for the Chinese, who delighted the crowd with their solid blocking, airtight floor defense as well as relentless attacks.
“China is going to win gold medal. Nobody can beat them,” said Foton Pilipinas coach Fabio Menta of Italy.
“But facing China will be another step towards “our Filipino system” against a team so much superior than us. We need to be disciplined at block and be able to counter attack fast, which has been our weakness for the past few days.”
Although he admitted that facing China is like scaling a mountain, Menta added that the Tornadoes will have a killer’s mentality once they step on the floor for the titanic battle.
“We’re not afraid to say that ‘we know we’re going to lose tomorrow, so let’s work on this and that with a free mind.’ We know we don’t belong to the semis yet. But next year, if we qualify, it’s going to be an entirely different story.”
“These girls are fantastic. They are hard workers who try to apply what I say. And I think it’s slowly showing on the court.”
Menta said Stalzer is still subjected to further evaluation to make sure that her injury wouldn’t aggravate. However, 6-foot-5 Santiago will be around to provide the defense as well as Jovelyn Gonzaga, Aby Marano, Jen Reyes and import Ariel Usher.