FOTON tries to tighten its grip on the lead as it clashes with a depleted Iriga City squad when the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga Grand Prix returns to action on Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Action starts at 2 p.m. with the Tornadoes looking to punch their fourth consecutive victory.
Meanwhile, guest team University of Santo Tomas makes its much-anticipated debut when it faces red-hot Cocolife at 4 p.m. while F2 Logistics tackles Sta. Lucia Realty in the 6 p.m. match.
Bannered by prized Serbian spiker in Sara Klisura and Montenegrin Dragana Perunicnic with another Serbian Katarina Vukamanovic at the backline, the Tornadoes appear unstoppable after racing to three straight victories.
Their previous conquest, a straight set domination of Generika-Ayala in the Spike on Tour in Bacolod City over the weekend, cemented their spot on top while rival Petron absorbed its first loss after falling to F2 Logistics in four sets.
“This is a very tough tournament. All imports are impressive and your local players have improved,” said Foton coach Moro Branislav of Serbia, who also got big performances from Jaja Santiago, Maika Ortiz, EJ Laure and playmaker Ivy Perez.
“We have to take advantage of this momentum by claiming as many wins as possible. The tournament will be tougher in the latter period, so we must play our best this early.”
The Lady Oragons, meanwhile, is expected to play without their best local player in Grethcel Soltones, the three-time Most Valuable Player in the National Collegiate Athletic Association who has been slapped with a one-year suspension and a P50,000 fine after seeing action in the PVL on Oct. 29.
PSL president Ramon “Tats” Suzara said her action is a clear violation of the league’s existing “one-league” policy, forcing her to sit out until Nov. 5, 2018.
Iriga City mayor Madelaine Alfelor, however, filed an appeal and the league called for an emergency team owners’ meeting today to tackle the issue.
Iriga City head coach Parley Tupaz admitted that Soltones would be a major loss, but life must go on for the team as their imports, Tamara Kmezic of Serbia and Saama Miyagawa of Japan, are ready to work double time to fill the huge void created by her absence.
“Although her absence will be a huge loss, we have to abide whatever their decision is and move on,” said Tupaz, who led the Lady Oragons to a come-from-behind victory over Sta. Lucia in their PSL debut.
Also expected to draw a good crowd is the battle between UST and Cocolife.
Stacked against their collegiate mentor Kungfu Reyes for the first time, the young Golden Tigresses will parade Japanese import Yukie Inamasu to join the young developing core of Dimdim Pacres, Christine Francisco, Caitlyn Viray, Carla Sandoval and guest player Christine Agno.
“We may be young, but we will fight until the end,” said head coach John Paul Doloiras. “This is going to be a very good exposure for us going into the UAAP. We’re looking forward to learn a lot of things in this tournament.”