An explosive triple-header goes full blast when the 2016 Asics Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix presented by PLDT Home Ultera resumes today at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
Powerhouse Foton continues its title-retention bid when it clashes with Generika at 3 pm while F2 Logistics formally rolls the red carpet for its new import when it battles Cignal at 5 pm followed by the clash between heavyweights RC Cola-Army and Petron in the 7 pm main offering of this tourney bankrolled by Mikasa, Mueller, Grand Sport and Senoh with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
With prolific import Stephanie Niemer doing damage, the Tri-Activ Spikers had a blazing start as it posted a pair of convincing wins over Generika and F2 Logistics before the league, which is also sponsored by Focus Athletics, KLab Cyscorpions, Foton, Petron and F2 Logistics, took a three-week break to give way for the country’s hosting of the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship last month.
Petron is on top of the team standings with 2-0 while Foton and RC Cola-Army had an identical 1-0 slate. Generika and F2 Logistics, meanwhile, are tied at the basement with 0-2, leaving Cignal as the only team that has yet to see action in the season-ending conference.
But the tempo of the tourney will completely change as the Cargo Movers parade their prized import in Hayley Spelman, a 6-foot-7 opposite spiker who won a gold medal for United States in the NORCECA Women’s Juniors Continental Championship in 2008.
With Spelman finally on board, the Cargo Movers will be at full strength, especially with the presence of fellow import Sydney Kemper and local stalwarts Mika Reyes, Ara Galang, Cha Cruz, Aby Marano, Dawn Macandili and Kim Fajardo, who gained significant experience after competing against the best of the world in the FIVB battle two weeks ago.
Winning over Cignal will never be easy.
After a string of dismal finishes, the HD Spikers finally stacked their roster with quality talents, led by Puerto Rican Lynda Morales, American Laura Schaudt, Filipino-American Shawna-Lei Santos, Mylene Paat and Lourdes Patillano as well as mainstays Micmic Laborte, Cherry Vivas and Jheck Dionela.
Cignal’s biggest recruits, however, are its open spikers.
Former Most Valuable Player Venus Bernal will be making her return while Stephanie Mercado was recruited from the Cargo Movers and Janine Marciano moved over from the other league.
“I really like the composition of my team,” said Cignal head coach Sammy Acaylar. “All of my players like Lynda, Micmic, Venus, Paneng and Jheck are leaders. They are all matured and hungry to win. I know good things are in store for us this conference.”
Also expected to draw another banner crowd is the battle between Foton and Generika.
Ace middle blocker Dindin Manabat is said to be nearing her deadly shape after giving birth the other month while her sister, Jaja Santiago, will be marching back to the hardcourt after that very successful campaign in the AVC and FIVB tournaments.
Americans Lindsay Stalzer and Ariel Usher will be at the forefront of the attack while Serbian Moro Branislav will be calling the shots for the Tornadoes, who are looking to win another title to qualify in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship in Chinese Taipei next year.
“All teams are strong. But I still see my club, Foton, winning the championship,” said Branislav, who is expected to bank on the Rhea Dimaculangan, Maika Ortiz, Angeli Araneta, Sisi Rondina and EJ Laure.