GENERIKA-Ayala tries to bounce back from a rusty opening-day performance as it battles Cocolife in the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga Grand Prix today at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Action starts at 7 p.m., following the encounter between Sta. Lucia Realty and rookie team Iriga City in the 4:15 p.m. appetizer of this prestigious club tourney bankrolled by Cignal, Mikasa, Senoh, Mueller, Grand Sport, Rebisco, Island Rose, Cloudfone, UCPB Gen and Asics.
Both matches will be shown live via the league’s official broadcast partner, ESPN5.
Formal opening ceremonies, however, are set this Saturday at the same venue with no less than FIVB Hall of Famer and current United States’ women’s national team head coach Karsh Kiraly serving as guest of honor.
A team hungry for redemption, Generika-Ayala marched into this season-ending conference with high hopes following the acquisition of reinforcements in Katarina Pilepic of Croatia, Darlene Ramdin of Trinidad and Tobago and Penina Snuka of the US.
But the Lifesavers crashed back to earth as they fell prey to the powerful Petron side bannered by prolific imports Hillary Hurley and Lindsay Stalzer, as well as Japanese libero Yuri Fukuda, in straight sets, 25-13, 25-17, 25-19, last Saturday.
Pilepic, who was dubbed as “Croatian Hammer” during her college days at Arizona, finished with team-high 14 points, but was obviously overwhelmed by the towering Petron blockers led by Mika Reyes and Ria Meneses, who chalked three blocks apiece.
On the same note, Ramdin was also quiet, delivering only nine markers as she has yet to regain her deadly form after leading her country in the FIVB World Championship Qualifying Tournament recently.
“I feel that we still have something more to show. I expect the girls to go all out for a bounce back victory against Cocolife on Tuesday,” said Generika-Ayala head coach Francis Vicente, who is tipped to bank on local stars Gen Casugod, Fiola Ceballos, Kat Arado and team captain Angeli Araneta for this game.
Vicente knows that it’s going to be an all-out war against Cocolife, which campaigned in a pocket tournament in Vietnam in preparation for what is billed as the toughest, most serious women’s volleyball competition in the country.
Despite parading only two imports in Taylor Milton and Tai Manu-Olevao, the Asset Managers are still billed as legitimate title contenders for having a reliable libero in Denden Lazaro and a solid opposite spiker in Michele Gumabao.
Cocolife’s biggest asset, however, will be evergreen playmaker Tina Salak, who will be making a grand return to active playing after going on semi-retirement to focus on coaching.
“Syempre, iba kapag nadyan si Tina,” said Cocolife coach Kungfu Reyes, who was part of the coaching staff when Salak spearheaded Philippine Army to three consecutive titles in the early stretch of the league.
“We’re more solid if Tina is on the court. We know that she was my assistant last conference, so I expect her to serve as their coach inside the playing court.”
Aside from Salak, Gumabao and Lazaro, also expected to help Milton and Manu-Olevao are former Lady Troopers Ging Balse, Joanne Bunag, Nene Bautista and Jane Gonzales as well as former La Salle star Wensh Tiu and Ateneo ace Marge Tejada.