All eyes will be on guest team Kobe Shinwa Women’s University as it clashes with Foton in its debut in the Belo Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference on Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
Action starts at 7 p.m. with the Tornadoes expected to get their hands full against the fancied Japanese squad, which vowed to wage an all-out war to cop the crown in this prestigious women’s club tourney bankrolled by Asics, Mikasa, Senoh and Mueller with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
Prior to their encounter, Generika-Ayala will battle Sta. Lucia in the classification phase for 4th to 6th places at 3 p.m. while heavyweights Petron and Cignal renew their rivalry in the 5 pm second match of this explosive triple-header that also has UCPB Gen as official insurance provider and Gold’s Gym as official fitness partner.
Billed as one of the best university teams in Japan, Kobe Shinwa is heavily favored as local coaches admitted that they have no idea of how it plays despite the fact that it competed against Ateneo de Manila in a friendly match in Osaka last January.
Even a veteran international campaigner in Foton coach Moro Branislav stressed that he knows nothing about this Japanese side, except that it is fast, skilled, disciplined and plays Asian brand of volleyball to perfection.
“I have travelled a lot around Asia, but I am not familiar with this university team from Kobe,” said Branislav, the Serbian guru who called the shots for the North Korean national team last year.
“That makes this match more challenging. For my opinion, this Japanese team definitely plays Asian brand of volleyball, which means that they are fast, strong and very organized. We have to be ready.”
But the odds are definitely stacked against the Tornadoes as their skipper, Dindin Manabat, will miss the rest of the conference after sustaining a Grade 2 MCL injury during their marathon match against the Lady Realtors.
“That’s a very big problem for Foton,” Branislav said. “Dindin is our top spiker. We have to make some adjustments in order to compliment the numbers we will lose because of her absence.
Kobe Shinwa head coach Kiyokazu Yamamoto, for his part, said they are looking to give PSL teams a very good fight, similar to what happened last year when RC Cola-Army stretched the game to a deciding fifth set before winning the crown over the junior national team of Thailand.
He also thanked PSL president Ramon “Tats” Suzara, also a ranking official of the Asian Volleyball Confederation who plays a crucial role in inviting foreign teams.
“In behalf of the university, I’d like to extend my gratitude to PSL president Ramon Suzara and everyone who prepare for this wonderful and successful event. We are so honored to be part of this tournament.”
Kobe Shinwa team captain Chichiro Fujiwara said they will bring their A-game against Foton, Cignal and Petron to boost their preparation in their collegiate league.
“We expect that we can learn a lot from these top three teams,” said Fujiwara during the press briefing yesterday. “With that, I think we can fight well in our upcoming college tournament in Japan this April. We hope to use this experience to win the title in our college league.”
With Manabat out, Branislav will be banking on attackers Gretchel Soltones and Maika Ortiz while Ivy Perez and Rubie de Leon take charge of setting the plays with Jen Reyes manning the backline.