It’s going to be a clash of titans as leaders Petron and Foton put their unblemished slate on the line in the Asics Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix presented by PLDT Home Ultera today at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
Action fires off at 5 pm following the 3 pm collision between struggling Generika and Cignal, who will shoot for their first victory in this prestigious tournament bankrolled by Mikasa, Asics, Mueller, Senoh and Grand Sport with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
F2 Logistics, meanwhile, will gun for its third straight win against RC Cola-Army in the 7 pm nightcap of this battle that is also supported by Focus Athletics, KLab Cyscorpions, Foton, Petron and F2 Logistics.
After racing to three straight victories, the Tornadoes are tipped to find themselves in tough situation against the Tri-Activ Spikers, who are serious in regaining the crown and represent the country in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship in Chinese Taipei.
Petron is coming off an impressive four-set demolition of Cignal and its confidence is soaring high due to the experience gained by Frances Molina and Jen Reyes in the FIVB World Women’s Club Championship recently as well as the consistent plays of Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Cherry Nunag and CJ Rosario.
But more than anything else, Petron’s prolific imports, Stephanie Niemer and Serena Warner, are carrying it through.
“They fit our system perfectly,” said Petron coach Shaq Delos Reyes, following a 22-point explosion from Niemer in their victory against the HD Spikers. “But we can’t be complacent. We have to sustain our effort and remain consistent if we want to go far. Other teams are also strong. We expect them to come up with a good fight.”
Delos Santos noted that prevailing over the reigning champion, Foton, will never be easy despite the absence of star middle blocker Jaja Santiago, who will join National University in a 12-day buildup in Japan.
With Santiago out, imports Lindsay Stalzer and Ariel Usher are expected to work doubly hard while Angeli Araneta, Maika Ortiz and Santiago’s sister, Dindin Manabat, are also tipped to step up in a bid to gain the top overall spot.
Foton coach Moro Branislav of Serbia said although Santiago would be such a great loss in their rotation, he remains confident that his veterans would be prepared for this titanic showdown between two teams who have dominated the Grand Prix for the past two years.
“Jaja Santiago will not play in the next 12 days because she needs to go to Japan for her university commitment, “ said Branislav, a seasoned mentor who last call the shots for the top club team in North Korea. “But it’s okay. I know my players would step up. I’ll prepare them for the next three to four matches.”
Branislav added that although sweeping the eliminations would be sweet, his main concern is how they will perform in the playoffs.
“I respect every team, but in my opinion, it doesn’t matter who comes first in the standings after the eliminations,” he said moments after his wards clobbered RC Cola-Army in straight set. “The playoffs are more important. It’s the real battle.”