The top guns saw limited minutes, but it hardly mattered for Foton as it demolished newcomer Cherrylume, 25-21, 25-16, 25-17 in the opening salvo of the Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference last night at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Maika Ortiz checked in starting the second set while Jaja Santiago and EJ Laure followed shortly to power the Tornadoes to their first victory in this prestigious club league bankrolled by Belo, Rebisco, Senoh, Mikasa, Asics, Mueller and Grand Sport.
Santiago nailed six kills, two aces and a block for a team-high nine points while new recruits Heather Guino-o and CJ Rosario chipped in six markers apiece for Foton, which paraded a souped-up roster with eight new players.
Although the Tornadoes ruled the attack department, 25-17, things looked shaky in the first set as the surprisingly game Cherrylume squad made things a little interesting.
The Iron Lady Warriors were even threatening the Tornadoes in the second set, 11-12, before Branislav decided to field Santiago and Laure to turn things around.
Serbian coach Moro Branislav said resting Santiago, Laure and, to some extent, Ortiz was part of his strategy of developing his young players and bracing for tough games ahead.
“As you see, I have eight new players. This is not the same Foton team that you saw last year. This is completely a new Foton team,” said Branislav, who guided the Tornadoes to the Grand Prix crown last year.
“We wanted to give Jaja and Maika rest since they came from the national team. Also, we want to develop our players and give them confidence for big games ahead.”
He added that the Iron Lady Warriors were surprisingly tough that prompted him to field in Santiago and Laure in the halfway mark of the second set.
“Cherrylume, to my surprise, is a very good team. It may be new, but it’s very good. Cherrylume will surely have better results as the tournament progresses.”
Skipper Mary Ann Mendez finished with 10 kills and a pair of aces for 12 points while Judith Abil had five markers for the Iron Lady Warriors, who are parading the nucleus of University of the East with an average age of 19 years old.