PHILIPPINE Super Liga teams virtually revamp their line-ups every season. Theoretically, it should be difficult to predict which teams will fare well. But since all the teams do this anyway, it isn’t really difficult to know which teams will be favored to win it all.
Just pick the team with the best lineup. This conference is no exception with top teams Petron Blaze Spikers and Cignal HD Spikers parading new, but star-studded squads.
After the completion of the elimination round the Petron Blaze Spikers leaned on their deep, deep bench to become the only unbeaten team into the final round.
Petron’s starting unit consists of setter Rhea Dimaculangan, opposite hitter Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, open spikers Ces Molina and Mina Aganon, as well as middle blockers Mika Reyes and CJ Rosario.
Then there are reserve spikers Bang Pineda and Mela Tunay. It’s as good a lineup as any in the PSL.
The Blaze Spikers assembled that powerhouse squad after recruiting Reyes, Dimaculangan, Tunay, Dusaran and Bacolod middle blocker Gianes Dolar in the off season.
The recruits join Aganon, Pineda, Molina, Maizo-Pontillas, Rosario, Mayette Zapanta and April Ross Hingpit to spearhead the Blaze Spikers this conference.
The biggest challenge for Petron will be the HD Spikers with former RC Cola-Army star players Rachel Anne Daquis, Honey Royse Tubino and Jovelyn Gonzaga as well as former Petron team captain Maica Morada.
They join the veteran core of Janine Marciano, Paneng Mercado, Mylene Paat, Cherry Vivas, Sandra Delos Santos, Lourdes Patillano, May Macatuno, Len Cortel and Chie Saet and all-star libero Jheck Dionela.
The Foton Tornadoes with middle blockers Dindin Santiago and Maika Ortiz, open spiker Grethcel Soltones, veteran setter Rubie De Leon as well energetic libero Jen Reyes should have made this a three-way title fight. But with the exit of Santiago-Manabat due to injury effectively eliminates Foton from title consideration.
Petron validated its lofty pre-season ranking by sweeping its elimination round schedule. Its last elimination round match was a dominant 25-11, 23-25, 25-18, 25-19, victory over Generika-Ayala. Team captain Molina and Aganon were all fired up while libero Dusaran did a marvelous job manning the defense for the Blaze Spikers.
The five-set duel won by Petron over Cignal HD earlier in the elimination round validates the view that the PSL will be a tough battle between the two squads.
The Blaze Spikers advanced to the final round where they join Cignal, a Japanese guest team in Kobe Shinwa University and the Foton Tornadoes. The final round starts March 30.
Molina, one of seven Filipinas who played in the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship last year, delivered 11 kills and a block to finish with 13 points. Aganon scored 13 markers, all on spikes, underscoring Petron’s dominant attacking style.
Dusaran, who filled big shoes with the departure of Reyes, was responsible for 12 of the Blaze Spikers’ 43 digs. She made life easier for veteran setter Dimaculangan who mapped out Petron offense.
Petron won the first set but stumbled out of the starting gate in the second set. Although they started out slow, the Blaze Spikers were able to come back as Molina, Aganon and Rosario turned a 1-4 deficit into a 16-8 lead entering the second technical timeout.
Maizo-Pontillas joined the fray as she uncorked a bomb from the service line for a 20-13 lead which virtually decided the victory.
Angeli Araneta and Gen Casugod led the scoring parade for Generika with 11 and 10 markers.
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