Petron braces for tough title defense

ABS-CBN Sports on Feb 10, 2019 06:54 PM
Petron braces for tough title defense
Petron will face a tough challenge as the Blaze Spikers try to retain its crown in the 2019 PSL Grand Prix.

It may have the strongest team on paper, but reigning champion Petron will be wary heading into the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix that kicks off Saturday (Feb. 16) at the Ynares Arena in Pasig City.

Blaze Spikers’ coach Shaq Delos Santos yesterday said it’s going to be a wide-open race as all teams have beefed up their respective rosters in a bid to dethrone them in this prestigious import-flavored conference.

For one, F2 Logistics boosted its roster by tapping former Petron import Lindsay Stalzer and American-Italian Becky Perry while United Volleyball Club will be bannered by the solid core of Kalei Mau and new recruits Alohi Robins-Hardy, Amy Ahomiro, Bang Pineda with imports Tai Manu-Olevao and Yasmeen Bedart-Ghani.

Generika-Ayala will also be a force to be reckoned with as it parades Azerbaijan national team star Kseniya Kocyigit and Brazilian stalwart Nikolle del Rio while Cignal rests its fate on the prowess of skipper Rachel Anne Daquis with Anastasia Artemeva of Azerbaijan and Erica Wilson of the United States as reinforcements.

Delos Santos said it’s going to be a tough battle ahead.

"I tell the team that this is an entirely new battle,” said Delos Santos, who will be bringing back prolific imports Stephanie Niemer and Katherine Bell together with the seasoned core of Mika Reyes, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina, Rhea Dimaculangan and a new recruit in prized libero Denden Lazaro.

"This is a very competitive field. We can’t be complacent. We have to be at our best every game if we want to retain our crown. We have to give our 100 percent game in and game out.”

Also tipped to make Petron’s championship journey in this tourney difficult are Sta. Lucia, Foton and PLDT Fibr.

Aside from having a new coach in Babes Castillo, the Lady Realtors will display the scoring prowess of NCAA Division I standouts Molly Lohman and Casey Schoenlein with Foton, the two-time champion who will be missing the services of towering sisters Jaja Santiago and Dindin Manabat, will rely on former Turkish national team member Selime Ilyasoglu and American Courtney Felinski.

Of course, PLDT, which used to be known as Smart, will make a return with Grace Lazard and Kendra Dahlke as reinforcements.

"Everybody is a contender,” said Delos Santos during the league’s Fans Day at the Sta. Lucia Grand East Mall.

“This is going to be a wide open and competitive race so we have to prepare hard against everybody.”

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