EXPLOSIVE women’s volleyball action gets underway on Saturday as the 2016 Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference opens at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
New-look Petron will kick off its title-retention bid when it battles rival Foton at 4 p.m., while F2 Logistics and Cignal clash in the 2 p.m. opening salvo of this star-studded inter-club tournament sponsored by Asics, Grand Sports, Mikasa, Mueller and Senoh with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
A simple, yet colorful opening ceremony is also set at 1 p.m. featuring a dance number among players, an acrobatic cheerdance performance from Perpetual pep squad, and the introduction of the league’s official mascot.
Admission is free and tickets will be distributed at the gates starting 10 a.m.
After a Final Four finish in the preseason PSL Invitational Conference, F2 Logistics made a recruiting coup when it acquired the services of Mika Reyes, Kim Fajardo, Majoy Baron, Kim Dy and the entire La Salle squad, which won the UAAP crown recently.
The Cargo Movers also drafted Ara Galang as the top pick in the PSL Annual Rookie Draft, giving her a chance to be reunited with former La Salle stars Cha Cruz, Paneng Mercado and Aby Marano.
“We still have to work hard to convert our success in the UAAP into a PSL title,” said F2 Logistics coach Ramil de Jesus, who also steered Generika and Shopinas to bridesmaid finishes in the past.
“We are facing a very tough field. We have to be at our best game because this is already the club level. All of these players have already proven something,” he added.
True enough, it will not be a cakewalk for F2 Logistics in this battle also supported by Focus Athletics, KLab Cyscorpions, Islandrose.net, LGR and Petron.
Cignal is also a serious contender as it parades Jeanette Panaga, Djanel Cheng and Janine Navarro – the troika that steered College of Saint Benilde to the NCAA women’s volleyball title.
Aside from Panaga, Cheng and Navarro, the HD Spikers will also have playmaker April Ross Hingpit, Cherry Mae Vivas, Jheck Dionela and the Carmela Tunay of University of Santo Tomas. They also drafted middle blocker Mary Grace Berte of Davao to add muscle to their defense.
“We want to establish a defense-minded team,” said Cignal coach Sammy Acaylar, noting the defensive presence of Dionela and Len Cortel in the backline and Panaga, Vivas, Navarro and Berte up front.
“So far so good. I think we’ll be ready to compete against the giants of this league,” he added.
But still, the battle royale between Petron and Foton is a must-watch.
Petron and Foton have figured in an intense finals showdown before in the PSL Grand Prix last year and their rivalry is expected to spill over to this conference.
The Tri-Activ Spikers may have lost the core of Marano, Rachel Anne Daquis, Dindin Manabat and Fille Cayetano, but they made a serious recruiting run when they acquired veteran Aiza Pontillas, Bang Pineda, Remy Palma and Bernadeth Pons.
They also drafted NCAA star CJ Rosario to match the firepower of Foton, which tapped the services of EJ Laure, Cherry Rondina, Carol Cerveza, Danna Henson and Shirley Salamagos to run with veterans Maika Ortiz, Rhea Dimaculangan, Patty Orendain and Jaja Santiago.
“It’s going to be tough,” said Petron coach George Pascua. “We have to double – or even triple – our effort to retain our (All-Filipino) crown.”