Petron braces for tough battle in PSL AFC title defense
Mark Escarlote on Jun 16, 2016 05:30 PM
Mas mahirap ang labanan ngayon kasi kita naman na lahat ng teams nagpalakas talaga -- Petron coach George Pascua
Defending champion Petron faces a tougher challenge as the Tri-Aktiv Spikers start their title defense in the 2016 Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference.
The Tri-Aktiv Spikers completed a historic sweep of last year’s competition for its second straight crown after capturing the 2014 Grand Prix but this time head coach George Pascua admitted that duplicating the feat could be an uphill climb considering the composition of the 8-team field of this tournament that will open on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan.
“Mas mahirap ang labanan ngayon kasi kita naman na lahat ng teams nagpalakas talaga,” the mentor said Thursday during the press launch of the country’s premier club league. “Sa amin naman siyempre lalaban kami.”
Petron will get an early acid test when it takes on 2015 Grand Prix champion Foton at 4:00 p.m. after the F2 Logistics-Cignal joust at 2:00 p.m.
The Tri-Aktiv Spikers will parade a younger team this time after the departure of last year’s AFC Most Valuable Player Rachel Anne Daquis and Aby Marano while Dindin Santiago-Manabat and Fille Cainglet-Cayetano are both on leave of absence because of their pregnancy.
Daquis transferred back to three-time champion RC Cola-Army while Marano was reunited with Cha Cruz and other former De La Salle players including overall 2016 Draft pick Ara Galang under coach Ramil De Jesus for F2 Logistics.
However, Petron acquired the services of a pair veteran players in Bang Pineda and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and a blue chip recruit in the 2016 overall Draft pick in former Arellano University star Christine Joy Rosario.
“So far doon sa composition ng team namin mas madali siyang i-manage ngayon, though before ganoon din naman,” said Pascua. “Pero mas aggressive ngayon kasi mas bata ang team namin. At the same time napunuan namin ang best position so ngayon mas madali na madidiskartehan kasi mas bata ang team.”
Pascua said that this conference is unpredictable with a balance field. But the Petron mentor named RC Cola-Army as the team to beat.
“Lahat naman ng teams ngayon talagang malalakas pero yunng Army para sa akin ang talagang team to beat,” he said.
The Lady Troopers didn’t use their pick in the rookie draft opting to stick with its seasoned lineup led by newly-crowned PSL beach volleyball champion Jovelyn Gonzaga and Nene Bautista, veteran setter Tina Salak, Michelle Carolino, Honey Royse Tubino and Daquis.
Other teams raring to take a shot for the crown are the Cignal HD Spikers, Generika Life Savers, Standard Insurance-Navy Corvettes and Amy’s Kitchen Spikers.
The retooled HD Spikers’ lineup is built on the NCAA champion College of St. Benilde core of Jannine Navarro, setter Djanel Cheng, Ranya Musa and Jeannette Panaga with Cherry Vivas, Micmic Laborte, libero Jeck Dionela and former University of Sto. Tomas star Carmela Tunay.
Foton guns for its second straight title behind 6-foot-5 Jaja Santiago, Angeli Araneta, Patty Orendain, EJ Laure and Sisi Rondina of UST and rookies Shirley Salamagos and Dana Henson of Arellano.
Draft pick Genevieve Casugod of Far Eastern University, UST’s Rica Rivera and Chlodia Cortez, Wensh Tiu and Shaya Adorador banner Generika; the Corvettes have Pau Soriano, Janet Serafica and Lilet Mabbayad; while Amy’s Kitchen is composed of the core of Perpetual help led by Coleen Bravo and Lourdes Clemente.
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