RED-hot Petron tries to tighten its hold of the top spot when it clashes with a dangerous Cignal squad in the 2016 Asics Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix on Saturday at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
Petron tangles with Cignal at 12:30 p.m. before the 3 p.m. collision between F2 Logistics and Generika in the second game of another explosive weekend triple-header of this prestigious tourney presented by PLDT Home Ultera, and bankrolled by Mikasa, Asics, Mueller, Senoh and Grand Sport with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
On the same note, reigning champion Foton will also try to remain immaculate when it takes on RC Cola-Army in the 5 p.m. main encounter of this competition, which also has Focus Athletics, KLab Cyscorpions, Foton, Petron and F2 Logistics as sponsors.
Powered by high-scoring Stephanie Niemer, the Tri-Activ Spikers raced to three consecutive victories to conquer the solo leadership while the Tornadoes are not far behind with a 2-0 win-loss card, making them the only undefeated teams in this competition where the champion gets a chance to represent the country in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship in Chinese Taipei next year.
Niemer, who was part of the PSL-F2 Logistics Manila team that campaigned in the prestigious FIVB Women’s Club World Championship last month, stood out anew as she delivered 20 kills, three aces and a block to finish with 24 points in Petron’s masterful 25-23, 23-25, 25-18, 25-19 victory over the Lady Troopers on Thursday.
Her fellow import, Serena Warner, backed her up with 14 points while Frances Molina finished with 13 hits.
Despite their roaring start, Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos said his team remains hungry and are serious to go all the way to win the Grand Prix title, which they last won two years ago with Alaina Bergsma of United States and Erica Adachi of Brazil as reinforcements.
“It’s still a long way to go,” said Delos Santos, the Far Eastern University mentor who served as deputy to George Pascua when Petron tallied a historic 13-0 sweep of the 2015 All-Filipino Conference.
“A good start means nothing if we don’t win the crown. That’s our goal right from the start. We remain hungry and motivated knowing that teams in the Grand Prix are all good,” he added.
True enough, Cignal will be no easy foe.
Despite dropping a 25-21, 11-25, 26-24, 18-25, 11-15 decision to F2 Logistics, the HD Spikers are still favored to dominate due to the presence of a rock-solid unit bannered by Olympian Lynda Morales and Laura Schaudt with Janine Marciano, Paneng Mercado, Mylene Paat and the returning Venus Bernal at the helm.
Against the Cargo Movers, Schaudt led the scoring parade with 12 kills and a pair of blocks for 15 points while Morales had 14 hits, most of them coming in the deciding set before running out of gas.
“It was such a good game. Unfortunately, somebody had to lose,” said Cignal coach Sammy Acaylar. “The team made a promise to bounce back in our next game. That’s why I’m pretty optimistic about our chances against Petron.”
Acaylar stressed that aside from Niemer and Molina, they also have to pay special attention on the attacks of veteran Aiza Maizo-Pontillas from the opposite as well as solving the solid net defense of blockers Warner, CJ Rosario and Cherry Nunag.
RC Cola-Army 1-1
F2 Logistics 1-2
Games on Saturday:
(FilOil Flying V Center)
12:30 p.m. - Cignal vs Petron
3 p.m. - F2 Logistics vs Generika
5 p.m. – RC Cola-Army vs Foton