PETRON faces a tall order in the bid for a third straight title, with a new coach heading a revamped squad seeing action in the Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix opening on Feb. 29 at the Arena in San Juan.
The Blaze Spikers lost key players Rhea Dimaculangan, Mika Reyes and Denden Lazaro, who transferred to other clubs, while Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons have decided to focus on beach volleyball.
Still, Emil Lontoc, who replaced Shaq Delos Santos as coach, is confident the team which has brought back Kath Bell with Ces Molina and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas leading the locals is still among the top contenders.
“Laging nasa championship yung team. We will try our best na mapabilang ulit doon. May total revamp pero naniniwala pa rin ako sa sistema na meron kami,” said Lontoc during the Grand Prix launch on Tuesday at Eurotel Makati.
The 70-year-old coach needs newcomers Rebecca Rivera, Ging Balse-Pabayo, Jem Guttierez, Roselle Baliton and Angela Nunag to deliver right away.
Petron battles Generika-Ayala on opening day at 5 p.m., followed by the match between Sta. Lucia and PLDT.
F2 Logistics, meanwhile, has retained its core and all eyes will be on the teamup of returning import Lindsay Stalzer and Filipino-American star Kalei Mau as the Cargo Movers try to win the Grand Prix for the first time in three years. F2 won the All-Filipino and Invitational last season, but settled for runner-up honors in the GP.
“Lagi natin sinasabi Petron ang team to beat. Laging gusto namin makarating ng championship. Every team naman lahat dito yun ang goal. Big opportunity ito so why grab it,” said F2 Logistics assistant coach Noel Orcullo, speaking for Ramil de Jesus.
Also seeing action are Chery Tiggo, Cignal and Marinerang Pilipina.
The Crossovers, formerly Foton Tornadoes, now have Mylene Paat, Jasmine Nabor, Rachel Austero, Joy Dacoron, Jannine Navarro with Tatjana Bokan as import.
Sta. Lucia will now be led by Reyes with Jessica Vestal, Royse Tubino, Djanel Cheng and import Shainah Joseph.
Generika-Ayala will parade Dimaculangan, Mina Aganon, Eli Soyud, Toni Basas and reinforcement Elizabeth Vicet Campos. Cignal tapped import Jennifer Yanet Alvarez and do-it-all spiker Fiola Ceballos to boost the trio of Rachel Anne Daquis, Jovelyn Gonzaga Alohi Robins-Hardy.
PLDT has Maeva Orle as import while Marinerang Pilipina will be led by Hana Cutura.
After two rounds, the eight teams play the knockout quarterfinals.