Foton will be one great player short when it marches back to court without Jaja Santiago when it clashes with Cignal in the Asics Philippine Superliga Grand Prix presented by PLDT Home Ultera today at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
Game is at 3 pm followed by the encounter between Petron and F2 Logistics at 5 pm and the collision between struggling Generika and RC Cola-Army in the 7 pm night cap of this prestigious tourney bankrolled by Mikasa, Asics, Mueller, Senoh and Grand Sport with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
The Tornadoes, champions in last year’s edition of this battle that also has Focus Athletics, KLab Cyscorpions, Foton, F2 Logistics and Petron as sponsors, came up with a gallant defensive effort down the stretch to stop Stephanie Niemer and Petron with a thrilling 25-18, 23-25, 25-14, 19-25, 15-13 victory late Tuesday to rack up their fourth straight victory.
Niemer erupted for a conference-high 38 points, but it hardly mattered as the strong net defense of the Tornadoes sparkled in the crucial stretch of the deciding set to help them preserve their immaculate card.
Foton is now on top of the leaderboard with 4-0 while Petron fell to 4-1.
But Foton’s mettle would be put to a test when it competes without its top middle blocker, Santiago, who joined National University in a 12-day training camp in Japan.
Foton coach Moro Branislav of Serbia said he would make major adjustments in the rotation to fill the huge void in the middle created by the absence of 6-foot-5 Santiago.
“I prepared my players to play different positions and made some adjustments without Jaja,” said Foton coach Moro Branislav of Serbia. “Maybe I will give chance for Dindin (Manabat) to play middle (blocker). I will give her more important plays for next match.”
Cignal, however, has its own issues to deal with.
Despite eking out a five-set conquest of Generika, 22-25, 25-19, 21-25, 25-20, 15-14, that boosted their morale, the HD Spikers will be competing without former Puerto Rican national team skipper Lynda Morales, who suffered a left ankle sprain.
Morales sustained the injury in the first set against the Lifesavers, forcing the local players to work doubly hard to punch their first victory.
“I told the locals to forget Lynda and work on their own,” said Cignal coach Sammy Acaylar. “Lynda would definitely not be with us in the next game so the locals must step up because Foton is such a strong team.”
Acaylar said Janine Marciano, Mylene Paat and Michelle Laborte should continue their impressive performance while veterans Venus Bernal, Jheck Dionela, Paneng Mercado and Cherry Vivas provide support to import Laura Schaudt and playmaker Shawna-Lei Santos.
“We’re all looking forward to our game against Foton,” he said. “Our confidence is high and the locals are all pumped up to play. I hope there would be encouraging result.”