THE race to the crown intensifies as Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference semifinals fire off on Thursday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Reigning champion F2 Logistics battles Cignal at 5 p.m. while Foton tests the mettle of a star-studded Petron squad in the 7 p.m. match.
Cocolife and Sta. Lucia battle for fifth at De La Salle Sentrum in Lipa City on Saturday.
After breezing past their respective foes in the Round of 8, the clash between the Tornadoes and the Blaze Spikers is tipped to go down the wire in a rematch of their dramatic finals encounter in the Grand Prix.
With Americans Lindsay Stalzer and Ariel Usher as reinforcements, the Tornadoes dominated the Blaze Spikers bannered by power-hitting Stephanie Niemer and Serena Warner in their best-of-three finals showdown last December.
The setback sent Petron back to the drawing board, prompting it to launch a massive overhaul with the acquisition of Mika Reyes, Carmela Tunay, Remy Palma, Marivic Meneses, Bernadeth Pons, Sisi Rondina and Rhea Dimaculangan.
Although the Blaze Spikers had little trouble early on as they lost twice to another rival in Cignal, head coach Shaq Delos Santos isn’t worried as they are the lone squad that dealt the Tornadoes a loss the preliminaries.
“I think that win gave us momentum entering the semis,” said Delos Santos, referring to the five-set win in their final match of the preliminaries of the event backed by Rebisco, Gold’s Gym and Belo.
“Foton is a very solid and well-coached team. We can’t just relax knowing that we already won over them. We still have to prepare and work hard if we want to make it to the finals.”
Foton has Jaja Santiago, EJ Laure and Maika Ortiz as top hitters with CJ Rosario, Nica Guliman, Shang Berte and Jen Reyes taking care of the defense.
“The semifinals is the real battle,” said Branislav. “In my opinion, all teams will show up prepared in the semifinals. This will be a different game. We have to be very prepared against Petron.”