UNBEATEN powerhouse Petron guns for the first semifinals berth when it faces a dangerous Foton side in the Belo-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference on Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
The clash between two title favorites is set at 3 pm before new teams Cocolife and Sta. Lucia try to claw their way out of the basement when they collide in the 5 pm match of this prestigious women’s club tourney backed by Senoh, Mikasa, Mueller and Asics with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
In the nightcap at 7 pm, Cignal and Generika-Ayala battle for an important victory that would boost their semifinal chances in the league that also has Gold’s Gym as official fitness partner and UCPB Gen as official insurance provider.
After undergoing massive revamp during the offseason, Petron posted three straight victories over Sta. Lucia, Cignal and Cocolife to occupy the top spot and inch closer to the semifinals of this short but competitive season-opening conference.
But the Blaze Spikers have to be at their best as they will face an equally powerful Foton squad.
Despite losing Jaja Santiago and EJ Laure, who are playing for their respective schools in the UAAP, the Tornadoes remain a solid force as middle blocker Dindin Manabat is back in form while the recruitment of NCAA MVP Grethcel Soltones has sparked their attack.
In their four-set victory over Generika-Ayala, Manabat and Soltones destroyed the Lifesavers’ defense, delivering 19 and 18 points, respectively, to capture their second win in three starts.
“We know that Foton is a contender every conference,” said Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos, referring to the same team that crushed them in the finals of the PSL Grand Prix last year.
“Kahit sinong players ang ilagay mo dyan, lalaban at lalaban talaga ang team na yan. That’s why we have to be careful. We expect this match to be a very tough battle,” he added.
Foton coach Moro Branislav of Serbia, on the other hand, is optimistic that they would deal Petron its first setback of the conference.
He, in fact, is already looking forward to becoming one of the only three teams to make it to the semifinals where a guest team from Japan would test their mettle.
“In my opinion, we can make it to the semifinals. That’s why this victory over Petron is very important to my team. This will gauge how we will perform in the next round,” he said.
Branislav noted that they have to neutralize the defensive presence of middle blocker Mika Reyes and take away the offense of Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina and Carmela Tunay to emerge victorious.
“Well, we have to make some stops,” he said. “Petron is such a tough and talented team. We have to make some adjustments as well.”
Sta. Lucia 0-2
Games on Thursday
(FilOil Flying V Center)
3 pm – Petron vs Foton
5 pm – Cocolife vs Sta. Lucia
7 pm – Generika-Ayala vs Cignal