DEFENDING champion Petron kicks off its title retention bid in the Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix as the Blaze Spikers face the Cignal HD Spikers in the opener at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna on Saturday.
Spearheaded by the same core than won the championship last year including import Erica Adachi, Petron is fancied over Cignal in their 1 p.m. encounter shortly after an elaborate opening production number.
Adachi will be teaming up this time with Brazilian Rupia Inck, who replaced Alaina Bergsma, while joining hands with locals Aby Maraño, Rachel Anne Daquis, and Dindin Santiago-Manabat.
Both Inck and Adachi were already with the team for almost a month now following Petron’s stint in the 2015 AVC Asian Club Women's Championship in Phu Ly, Vietnam.
Meralco and Foton meanwhile, clash in the second game set at 3 p.m.
Adachi sees their Petron’s team chemistry as its advantage over the other much improved field.
“Yes, I think that is our advantage because we have been together for a longer period of time compared to the others and we will use that team chemistry to our advantage,” said Adachi.
But not to be outdone is Cignal, composed of veterans Michelle Laborte, April Ross Hingpit, and Rizza Mandapat and backed by imports Ariel Usher and Amanda Anderson.
“They are very beautiful, they are very easy to coach, and madali silang makisama. Wala akong problema sa kanila,” said Cignal coach Sammy Acaylar.
Meanwhile, towering National University stalwart Jaja Santiago is expected to add firepower for Foton
The 6-4 middle blocker admitted feeling dwarfed by this year’s cast of imports, but feels that playing against taller and more experienced players will further help her develop as a player. more.
Santiago will play alongside Foton mainstays Fiola Ceballos, Angeli Araneta, and Patty Jane Orendain alog with the pair of charming imports Katie Messing and Lindsay Stalzer.
Meralco will bank on the presence of former and current La Salle players as it tries to surpass its runner-up finish last conference.
Cha Cruz and Paneng Mercado will be joined by Mika Reyes, Mika Esperanza, Kim Dy, and Kim Fajardo to be coached by eight-time UAAP champion coach Ramil de Jesus.
Christina Alessi and Liis Kullerkann will reinforce the Power Spikers.
Aside from the new batch of exciting imports, PSL president Tats Suzara is delighted to announce the league’s introduction of the video challenge system come the second round of the eliminations.
“The FIVB (International Volleyball Federation) is strongly recommending the challenge system among all club leagues in the world. Fortunately, we will be among the first club league in Asia to implement such system. This is such a breakthrough, a great innovation in Philippine volleyball,” said Suzara.
At the same time, FIVB executive Stav Jacobi indeed, confirmed the Philippines is among the countries bidding for the hosting of the prestigious FIVB World Women's Club Championship next year.
“Yes, we're seriously looking at holding it here,” said Jacobi, who will also serve as guest of honor during the opening ceremony. “With the Filipinos' passion in the sport, not to mention their promising players, I think it will be perfect to hold a prestigious event in this country.”