Despite losing the core of his team, Foton head coach Moro Branislav remains optimistic of the Tornadoes’ chances in the 2017 Belo-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference starting tomorrow (Saturday) at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
The Serbian guru said they would bring their old spunk and intensity in the season-opening conference against heavyweights like Cignal and Petron as well as Generika-Ayala and newcomers Cocolife and Sta. Lucia.
The Tornadoes, who ruled the Grand Prix for two consecutive years, lost more than half of the team through recruitment by the various squads, which are threatening to knock the crown off their heads.
Setter Rhea Dimaculangan and Sisi Rondina joined Petron while Carol Cerveza, Bia General, Angeli Araneta and Patty Orendain joined Generika-Ayala, leaving Jaja Santiago, Dindin Manabat, Maika Ortiz and Ivy Perez as holdovers.
They will join new recruits Iumi Yongco, Jen Reyes, Mary Grace Berte, Cherilyn Sindayen, Katherine Villegas, Rubie de Leon, Glayssa Torres, Kathleen Barrinuevo and Gretchel Soltones – the newly crowned Most Valuable Player of the NCAA.
Although Branislav said he was disappointed with the revamp, he is looking at it as a challenge to steer the Tornadoes back to the top.
He added that the Invitationals would serve as a mere warm-up for the major task ahead: the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship in Kazakhstan in May.
“The Invitationals is a stage where everybody can make adjustments,” said the 59-year old mentor Branislav, who trotted the globe and called the shots for various clubs in Greece, Belarus, Kuwait, Libya, Romania and North Korea.
“In my opinion the real battle is the Asian championships and the Grand Prix. This is the best club league in the Philippines and it would be great for Foton to represent the country. So for my opinion, there should be no pressure because this Invitationals is our jump-off (point) for the AVC and the Grand Prix.”
Branislav added that he is greatly impressed with the development of Manabat, who was on top of her game before delivering a bouncing baby girl last year.
“I think Dindin is about 90 percent in her development,” he said. “Let’s see. She should be 100 percent by the time we play in the AVC in May.”
The Tornadoes will tackle the mighty HD Spikers in the second game of the explosive opening-day triple-header.