AN early clash of titans is assured when the 2016 Asics Philippine Superliga Grand Prix, presented by PLDT Home Ultera fires off today at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
Reigning champion Foton and F2 Logistics, protagonists in the All-Filipino Conference finals, lock horns anew at 3 p.m. following the 2:30 p.m. opening ceremony of this prestigious club tourney bankrolled by Mikasa, Mueller, Grand Sport and Senoh with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
Earlier, Generika will test Petron’s mettle in the 12:30 p.m. appetizer of this event that also has Focus Athletics, KLab Cyscorpions, Foton, Petron and F2 Logistics as sponsors.
Tickets will be given free at the venue and there will be a raffle where 20 fans can win complimentary passes to the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship that will be held from Oct. 18 to 23 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
After representing the country in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship last month, the Tornadoes are being picked as the team to beat as they parade a very solid core and a foreign mentor in Moro Branislav, who was tapped after calling the shots for prestigious clubs in Yugoslavia, Greece, Romania, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Belarus and North Korea.
They will be powered by last year’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Lindsay Stalzer and Ariel Usher and will welcome the return of prized middle blocker Dindin Manabat, who will be reunited with sister, Jaja Santiago, as well as Rhea Dimaculangan, Maika Ortiz, EJ Laure, Sisi Rondina and Patty Orendain.
“Our team has the talent,” said Branislav, who will also call the shots for PSL-F2 Logistics Manila.
“But making it work into one cohesive unit is a big challenge. All teams are strong. We have to work hard to turn that talent into victories.”
Branislav noted that the Cargo Movers would be tough to crack as they parade a rock-solid nucleus that has been playing together for the past four to six years.
True enough, F2 Logistics has the chemistry.
Skipper Cha Cruz and Aby Marano will be back to lead the powerhouse squad of current La Salle stars Kim Fajardo, Kim Dy, Mika Reyes, Ara Galang, Majoy Baron, Cyd Demecillo and Dawn Macandili, the defense specialist who emerged as MVP when the Cargo Movers plucked the PSL All-Filipino Conference crown last August.
Aside from them, Janine Navarro and Djanel Cheng – the cornerstones of reigning NCAA champion College of Saint Benilde – were also recruited to form what is billed as the most solid, most cohesive local team in the country’s best club league today.
But there’s a chink in the Cargo Movers’ armor.
“We will be playing with only one import on Saturday,” said team manager Hollie Reyes, adding that although Sydney Kemper already arrived, her partner in Hayley Spelman is only scheduled to board her flight to Manila later after suiting up for Altay VC in Kazakhstan.
Also expected to draw another massive crowd is the opening match between Petron and dark horse Generika.
High-flying Stephanie Niemer and 6-foot-5 middle blocker Serena Warner as well as Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina, Bang Pineda, Jen Reyes and Maica Morada will carry the cudgels for the Tri-Activ Spikers, who will be guided by a new coach in Shaq Delos Santos.
They will be up against the Lifesavers who have Trinidad and Tobago national team member Darlene Ramdin and Ukrainian Polina Liutikova with locals Wensh Tiu, Shaya Adorador, Ria Meneses, Chloe Cortez and veteran playmaker Rubie de Leon.
Games Today (FilOil Flying V Center)
12:30 p.m. – Generika vs Petron
2:30 p.m. – Opening ceremony
3:00 p.m. – Foton vs F2 Logistics