A FAMILIAR foe in Cignal again stands in the way of TMS Philippine Army as it guns for a second successive championship in the Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix final on Saturday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
The Lady Troopers and HD Spikers arranged a repeat of their title showdown during the maiden conference of the meet by disposing their respective semifinals opponents in contrasting fashion.
Army made short work of Cagayan Valley, 25-15, 25-20, 25-17, while the HD Spikers pulled off an epic upset of previously unbeaten PLDT behind a thrilling 17-25, 25-22, 21-25, 27-25, 16-14 victory.
Hard-hitting Thai reinforcement Luangtonglang Wanitchaya and local scorers Jovelyn Gonzaga and Rachel Ann Daquis are again expected to take charge for Army, which might miss the service of injured Jacq Alarca (sprain), but still has Mary Jean Balse, Michelle Carolino, Nene Bautista, and veteran setter Tina Salak to rely on.
The Lady Troopers deep lineup, according to coach Rico De Guzman, will be the key for a repeat championship against the same team they conquered in four sets during the inaugural title match five months ago.
“We have that (deep roster) advantage against them,” De Guzman said, whose team also beat Cignal in the eliminations. “But we can’t be overconfident and have to stay focused on the task at hand.”
The Lady Troopers’ fancied lineup however, is not a guarantee for a sure win especially against a team such as Cignal.
Cignal coach Sammy Acaylar sees the match set at 1:30 p.m. as a battle of wits and adjustments for both teams.
“It’s more of a psychological game. We have to analyze and study what is happening inside the court from receives, services, to set plays of the opponent,” said Acaylar. “I study my opponent first and from there I set my plays.”
Aside from Chinese guest players Lei Xie and Li ZhangZhan, Cignal will also lean on locals Danika Gendrauli, Maureen Penetrante and Abigail Praca.
Meanwhile, PLDT MyDSL and Systema tangle for the men’s title at 11:30 am.
Speed Boosters coach Francis Vicente admitted being wary facing a much improved Systema side in the final despite beating the Active Spikers in straight sets during the conference opener.
“Systema has improved a lot and they are playing on a higher level now,” said Vicente. “But we’ve prepared hard against them and strengthened our floor defense, receives, and combination plays.”
Actor Richard Gomez, Henry Pecana, Kheeno Franco, and Dominico Lucindo are expected to take charge for PLDT against towering middle blocker AJ Pareja, PJ Rojas, Angelo Espiritu and heady hitter Chris Macasaet of Systema.