PETRON will be marching into a brand-new season of the Philippine Superliga (PSL) still hungry for a title and carrying the same intensity that won it a pair of championships last year.
Tri-Activ Spikers coach George Pascua said regaining the crown remains the ultimate goal when the country's premiere inter-club women's volleyball league kicks off the year with its Invitational Cup on Thursday at The Arena in San Juan.
Pacua, the former national team mainstay and architect of Petron's 2014 Grand Prix and 2015 All-Filipino Cup titles, said their latest recruits are all capable of sustaining the winning run of the Tri-Activ Spikers, who lost four stars in Dindin Manabat, Fille Cayetano, Rachel Anne Daquis and Aby Marano.
Manabat is pregnant and is taking a leave of absence this year. Cayetano will also sit out to join her family in the campaign trail for the national elections while Daquis and Marano have been released.
Pascua said the acquisition of veterans Aiza Maizo-Pontillas of University of Santo Tomas and Bang Pineda of Adamson, as well as rising stars Christine Joy Rosario and Angel Legacion of Arellano University and Cherry Rose Nunag of La Salle-Dasmarinas will boost an already solid roster of Frances Molina, Maica Morada, Jen Reyes, Carmina Aganon, Ana Marie del Mundo, Acy Masangkay and Mayette Zapanta.
"The firepower, the solid defense and the chemistry are still there. It's still basically the same strong and hungry team," said Pascua, looking forward to explosive battles with powerhouse teams like RC Cola-Army, Foton, Cignal, San Jose Builders and F2 Logistics in this tournament which will be aired live over TV5.
Pascua noted that the 27-year old Pontillas, who steered the Tigresses to a pair of UAAP titles, is a massive upgrade in the opposite position due to her vast experience, leadership and scoring ability. Same goes with Rosario, who once served as a strong force in the middle for the Lady Chiefs in the NCAA.
But what excites Pascua most is the fact that they now have a bigger room for Molina, Morada, Zapanta and Aganon to grow and develop, something which they lacked last year when the Tri-Activ Spikers used to have a star-studded lineup topped with a pair of powerful reinforcements.
"I have a strong feeling that this will be a breakout season for them," said Pascua, adding that the strong floor defense of Reyes and Pineda will be their biggest edge against other teams.
"I'm also excited about the development of Ces (Molina). After winning an award (2nd Best Opposite Spiker) last conference, she continues to work hard and strive for greatness. With that kind of work ethic, I'm pretty sure that she will go far. And this conference could be the start."
"Volleyball is a team game. We will be unbeatable if we will work as one. We just have to believe in the system and in the ability of each other. It's going to be a very exciting and competitive season for us. Our eyes are still set on winning the championship."
Petron will open its season on March 8 against F2 Logistics.