NEWCOMERS Coco Life and Sta. Lucia are set to heat up the competition as the 2017 Philippine Super Liga Invitational Conference kicks off on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan.
Former college rivals Michele Gumabao and Denden Lazaro will banner the team, while calling the shots is Obet Javier of the NCAA reigning champion Arellano. Philippine Army veteran Tina Salak will serve as the deputy.
Sta. Lucia, a former household name in the PBA, shifts to volleyball and aims for at least a semifinal finish behind a selection of the NCAA champion team of College of St. Benilde's Jannine Navarro, Djanel Cheng, Rachel Anne Austero, and Ranya Musa, Arellano's Danna Henson and Rialen Sante with Perpetual Help standouts Lourdes Clemente and Cindy Imbo.
"Papatagalin namin ang laban we'll make it five sets," said Coco Life team manager Joshua Ylaya.
Foton also plans to send a strong statement with a new lineup featuring NCAA three-time MVP and San Sebastian star Grethcel Soltones with Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Maika Ortiz, Rubie de Leon and Jen Reyes.
Meanwhile, Cignal and Petron played down the tag as the teams to beat despite having talent-laden rosters.
With Rachel Anne Daquis, Jovelyn Gonzaga and Royse Tubino at the helm along with Maica Morada, Paneng Mercado, Mylene Paat and Janine Marciano, Cignal coach George Pascua stressed that their short-term goal is to make it to the semifinals.
"Top three muna kami tapos tignan natin ano magiging result. Hindi naman masama mangarap to put Cignal on top ulit," said Pascua.
On the other hand, Petron will lean on recruits Mika Reyes and Mela Tunay to boost mainstays Ces Molina, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Mina Aganon, Rhea Dimaculangan and Bang Pineda.
For Generika-Ayala, they prefer to keep their targets modest and just hope to be competitive against a stacked field.
"Semis ang target namin although all teams are very competitive like Cignal and Petron pero we will try our everything to make them play hard," said Life Savers coach Francis Vicente.
A guest team from Japan, Kobe Xinhua, will join the competition in the semifinals to test the mettle of the local club teams.
Last year, Thai guest team Est Cola made it to the Finals against eventual champion Philippine Army.