The race to the crown intensifies as the last remaining four teams—F2 Logistics, Petron, Foton and Cocolife—collide in the sudden-death semifinals of the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix today at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Heavyweight Cargo Movers will shoot for a slot in the finals when they battle the dangerous Asset Managers in the first game at 4 p.m. while the Blaze Spikers and Tornadoes renew their rivalry in the 6 p.m. encounter of this prestigious club tourney bankrolled by Mikasa, Grand Sport, Senoh, Mueller, Island Rose, Cloudfone and UCPB Gen.
After winning seven of its eight games to top the elimination round followed by an easy victory over Iriga City in the quarterfinals, F2 Logistics is tipped to be receive tough challenge from Cocolife, which is still fresh from a 25-23, 25-23, 25-20 conquest of Cignal in the quarters.
In that match, American imports Tai Manu-Olevao and Taylor Milton were on fire at the attack zone while veterans Tina Salak, Mary Jean Balse, Joanne Bunag, Michele Gumabao and Denden Lazaro asserted their dominance in the crucial stretch to tow the Asset Managers to its first semifinal appearance.
Cocolife coach Kungfu Reyes lauded his wards for a job well done, but stressed that they will go full blast against the Cargo Movers to formalize their entry in the best-of-three finals showdown of this battle that also has Gerflor and Gold’s Gym as technical sponsors and ESPN5 as broadcast partner.
Game 1 is set on Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
“Making it to the semifinals is a big achievement to our team,” said Reyes, noting the progress of his team after finishing seventh in the Invitational Conference and fifth in the All-Filipino Conference.
“But we will not settle for fourth. Since we’re already here, we might as well do everything to make it to the finals. F2 Logistics is a very talented and disciplined team. We have to work hard to defeat them.”
But all eyes will definitely be on the titanic battle between Petron and Foton.
After figuring in the finals the past couple of years, the Blaze Spikers and the Tornadoes will have an early collision after finishing the eliminations at second and third places, respectively.
In their first encounter this year, Petron was able to shut down high-flying Sara Klisura, Dragana Perunicnic, Jaja Santiago, Maika Ortiz and other attackers to deal Foton its first and only loss of the eliminations, 25-21, 25-22, 12-25, 25-20.
Still, Foton head coach Moro Branislav likes their semifinal match up against Petron, which will parade their former import in Lindsay Stalzer together with Hillary Hurley of United States and Yuri Fukuda of Japan as well as Frances Molina, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Mika Reyes and Rhea Dimaculangan.
“Foton likes playing against Petron,” said the Serbian guru following their 21-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-17 quarterfinal victory over Sta. Lucia Thursday.
“This is going to be a very interesting battle. Unlike in the finals that we have three games, in the semifinals, it’s just one match and you’re out. So we have to give our best against Petron if we want to defend our title.”
Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos vowed that their semifinal battle against Foton would be more intense and more dramatic than their two previous finals clashes.
“We know that Petron and Foton have a little rivalry,” said Delos Santos, adding that Foton’s mastery over them the past two years will serve as motivation to fire up his wards.
“But as I’ve said, we’re already in the semifinals. Unlike in the finals, we’re in a situation where we can’t afford to lose. We don’t have the luxury to adjust because one lost and we’re out. We have no choice but to play our hearts out.”