PSL Finals: Foton's hunger vs. Petron's dynasty
ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 25, 2015 03:50 PM
The Foton Tornadoes will try to topple the grand slam-seeking Petron Blaze Spikers.
4:00 p.m. -- Foton vs Petron
Intense women's volleyball action gets underway as reigning champion Petron unwraps its title-retention big against a powerhouse Foton side in Game 1 of their 2015 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix best-of-three titular showdown Thursday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
War begins at 4:00 p.m. with the Blaze Spikers expected to have a tougher time against the Tornadoes.
Gunning for a three-peat, the Blaze Spikers are said to have a slight advantage for having a fluid and star-studded lineup of Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Rachel Anne Daquis, Aby Marano and Ces Molina as well as vast experience after representing the country in the AVC Asian Women's Club Championship in Vietnam two months ago.
They also dominated the Tornadoes in their two elimination-round encounters before clobbering Cignal in four sets in the semifinals to inch closer to the title.
But Petron coach George Pascua knows that retaining the crown will not be a walk in the park.
"Pinakamahirap kalaban ang Foton," said Pascua whose wards are expected to go all-out since the deputy managing director of the Thai-based SMMTV in Prajaya Chaiyakam will be at courtside to personally experience the high level of competition of the country's premiere volleyball league.
Chaiyakam, whose network was chosen to be the AVC's TV partner for the next four years, flew in with his cameraman to document the encounter and personally extend the invitation to PSL president Ramon "Tats" Suzara and PSL chairman Philip Ella Juico to a three-nation tournament in Bangkok next year.
"They have a huge advantage for having three six footers in (Katie) Messing, (Lindsay) Stalzer and Jaja (Santiago). We need to neutralize their ceiling both on offense and defense. We also have to stop Stalzer from doing damage from the wing position. This is going to be an intense battle, that's for sure."
The Tornadoes, however, do not believe that they are the favorites.
Foton coach Vilet Ponce-de Leon stressed that Petron has the league's most solid lineup that is powered by equally-seasoned imports in playmaker Erika Adachi and her long-time partner in the Brazilian juniors national team in Rupia Inck.
Aside from that, the Blaze Spikers are also hungry and are looking to repeat as the country's representatives in the AVC Asian Club tourney which will be held in Manila next year.
"They have the league's most seasoned players," said Ponce-de Leon, whose side closed its campaign in the preliminaries with flying colors after winning five of its last six games before surviving Philips Gold in a grueling five-set duel in the semis.
"Yes, we have the height, but the finals is an entirely different story. Petron has been together for quite some time. They are already familiar with each other and are capable of overcoming a huge disadvantage. We have to be ready because this team performs best when the stakes are high."
Ponce-de Leon also dismissed speculations that she is pumped up to beat Petron, which served as her first club in the first few conferences of the league.
Same goes with Santiago, who will be facing her sister, Manabat, for the first time in the PSL finals.
"Nothing personal. This is a completely different Petron team," she said, adding that Fille Cayetano and Maica Morada are the only remaining players from her original team. "We are taking each game one at a time. We don't want to think of winning the title or anything at this point because it will only add to our pressure. We just want to go there and have fun."