While they are parading souped-up rosters, Petron and Cocolife still have to grind it out when they march to the Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference starting this Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.
After falling short in the Invitationals, the Blaze Spikers storm back with a powerhouse roster while the Asset Managers will be guided by a champion coach in Kungfu Reyes and a high-flying Filipino-American spiker in Cherylain Dizon.
National team captain Mika Reyes will be at the forefront of Petron’s defense together with a solid cast of new recruits in Marivic Meneses of University of Santo Tomas and Remy Palma of Far Eastern University while Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons, Ces Molina, Mela Tunay, Mina Aganon and veteran Aiza Maizo-Pontillas take care of the offense.
Still, Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos said strength on paper alone does not equate to an instant title.
“We still have to work hard to convert our strong roster into a championship,” said Delos Reyes, admitting that national team members like Reyes, Molina, Maizo-Pontillas and Rhea Dimaculangan still have a lot of things to work on in their games.
“The four national team members still have to be integrated into our system. They play vital roles on our game plan so we have to work double time to establish their connection with the new recruits.”
Also vowing to work hard to hit its target in this tourney bankrolled by Belo, Rebisco, Mikasa, Senoh, Mueller, Asics and Grand Sport with TV5 as broadcast partner is Cocolife.
Reyes, who guided RC Cola-Army to a masterful victory over the junior national team of Thailand in the finals of the Invitationals last year, would be calling the shots with legendary playmaker Tina Salak serving as his chief deputy.
Michele Gumabao and Denden Lazaro would again serve as cornerstones while new recruits Joanne Bunag, Carla Sandoval, Marge Tejada, Angelica Cayuna, Shannen Palec, Jeanette Villareal and Mika Esperanza will back them up.
“Kungfu will be a big help in steering the team to its, hopefully, first semifinal finish,” said team official Joshua Ylaya.
“Competing against some of the best teams in the country is the kind of experience we need to get to where they are right now. Rome wasn’t built overnight, Cocolife is barely four months old but slowly but surely, we’re finding the right piece for this team.”
Ylaya added that their biggest off-season recruit in Dizon is somebody to watch out for.
“She’s doing well with the team and she’s slowly getting comfortable to the Filipino brand of volleyball,” said Ylaya, referring to the former Northeastern University standout.
“She will play a major role in our offense and we are very optimistic that she can help us reach our goal.”