TOP volleyball action intensifies as the best-of-three semifinals series of the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix fire off on Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Reigning champion F2 Logistics clashes with Foton, while Petron battles Cocolife in an explosive double-header of the women’s club tournament bankrolled by Isuzu and UCPB Gen, with ESPN5 as official broadcast partner.
The Cargo Movers and Blaze Spikers are marching into the series with a slight advantage.
After clashing in a memorable finals showdown last year, F2 Logistics and Petron topped the classification round with a 9-1 win-loss record, making them favorites in the tournament that has Senoh, Mikasa, Grand Sport, LGR and Asics as technical partners.
The Cargo Movers had an easy time dominating Smart, and Petron clobbered Generika-Ayala to march into the semifinals oozing with confidence.
But the semifinals will be entirely different battles.
Foton is tipped to give F2 Logistics a hard time as it parades two promising collegiate players, Diana Mae Carlos and Isa Molde, while its new import Channon Thompson is starting to develop chemistry with mainstays Dindin Manabat, CJ Rosario, Maika Ortiz, Gyselle Sy and Canadian reinforcement Elizabeth Wendel.
There’s also a good chance for former Most Valuable Player Santiago to suit up pending the result of the Final Four battle between National University and De La Salle University in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).
“Although we want her team [NU] to make it all the way to the UAAP finals, having Jaja back in the team will still be a big boost to us,” Foton Head Coach Rommel Abella said.
Abella added that F2 Logistics is a strong team and the semifinals would no longer be a match of talent or strategy, but of desire and character.
“We should want it more than them,” he said. “F2 Logistics is very strong and disciplined. But, of course, it still has some lapses. And we should be ready to pounce on those lapses.”
Cocolife is also serious in making its first finals appearance.
Head Coach Moro Branislav said new import Marta Drpa is already getting familiar with the Filipino brand of volleyball and could be a big help to key players like Royse Tubino, Tina Salak, Denden Lazaro and fellow Serbian Sara Klisura.
In their previous match against Cignal, Drpa displayed versatility as she delivered 11 digs and four blocks on top of 15 kills to finish with 19 points to tow the Asset Managers to the semifinals.
“She is coming along very well. I’m sure she will be ready for the semifinals contra Petron,” said Branislav, admitting that the Blaze Spikers have the most fluid roster in the tournament.
“Petron is the best team this season. I must admit that. But it still lost a match. It still has some flaws. We have to put our best foot forward to expose those flaws and convert it to a victory in the semifinals.”