Blaze Spikers begin title defense
2 pm – Generika-Ayala vs Foton
4 pm – Sta. Lucia vs Petron
Powerhouse Petron takes the first step back to the crown when it clashes with a souped-up Sta. Lucia Realty squad to fire off the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix today at the Ynares Center.
Battle starts at 4 pm with the Blaze Spikers looking to come up with a roaring start in a bid to finally reclaim the elusive title of this tough club tourney bankrolled by Isuzu, Rebisco and UCPB Gen with ESPN5 as official broadcast partner.
Foton and Generika-Ayala will also gun for their first victory when they clash in the 2 pm first game of this battle that also has Asics, Mikasa, Mueller, Senoh, Gold’s Gym, Grand Sport and LGR as technical sponsors.
Although the much-anticipated import-flavored conference already gets underway with its first two matches, it will have the formal opening ceremonies at the Sta. Rosa City Sports Complex on Feb. 24 where all eight teams together with their imports, team captains and head coaches featured in the traditional parade of colors.
After losing in the finals for three straight years, the Blaze Spikers will be marching in this year’s Grand Prix with fire in their eyes, hoping to finally conquer the title in what is billed as the most prestigious, most competitive women’s volleyball tourney in the country.
American spikers Lindsay Stalzer and Hillary Hurley and Japanese libero Yuri Fukuda will be back to power the Blaze Spikers, who will parade the same core of Mika Reyes, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina and Rhea Dimaculangan.
The only additions, however, are middle blocker Luth Malaluan, setter Angelica Legacion and libero Pia Gaiser, who will be making her PSL debut after a suffering knee injury in her final playing year for University of the Philippines in the UAAP.
“We will do our best to step up this year,” said Delos Santos, whose wards were on the verge of winning the title before completely fading against a tough F2 Logistics side in the best-of-three finals showdown of the Grand Prix last year.
“Our goal is to finally win the title this year. We haven’t won the Grand Prix crown since 2014 and I can say that we’re all hungry and ready to win.”
But emerging victorious in the first game of the season will not be easy for Petron.
The Blaze Spikers will be up against the Lady Realtors, who will be bannered by head coach George Pascua, the architect of Petron’s clean sweep of the All-Filipino Conference in 2015.
Pascua, who steered Cignal to the Invitational Conference title before joining Sta. Lucia, will be parading a mix of seasoned campaigners and young guns together with proven imports Marisa Field and Kristen Moncks of Canada and Bohdana Anisova of Ukraine.
Veterans Rubie de Leon and Michelle Laborte were tapped to serve as mentors to rising stars Rebecca Rivera, MJ Philips, Pamela Lastimosa and Jonah Sabete.
“We are a young team searching for identity. So having these two veterans on the team will surely boost the morale of the young players inside and outside the playing court,” said Pascua, who is coming in as Sta. Lucia’s fourth mentor after Sammy Acaylar, Michael Carino and Jerry Yee.