Healthy, talent-laden Blaze Spikers looking forward in retaining All-Filipino crown
Petron will march in full force to defend its crown in the Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference starting Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Powered by veteran Ging Balse with and a healthy Frances Molina, the Blaze Spikers are coming in with a heavyweight status in this prestigious club league bankrolled by Isuzu, Sogo, Senoh, Asics, Mikasa, Mueller, UCPB Gen and Bizooku.
Balse, a member of the national squad that won the bronze medal in the 23rd Southeast Asian Games in 2005, joined the Blaze Spikers to reunite with former University of Santo Tomas teammates Rhea Dimaculangan and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas.
Molina will also be back in full strength after suffering a stress fracture injury that prompted her to withdraw from the national squad that saw action in the 18th Asian Games and AVC Asian Women’s Cup last month.
Also set to carry the cudgels for the star-studded Petron side in this league that was chosen as one of the 10 finalists in the Best Women’s Sports Event category award of SPIA Asia are Mika Reyes, Jasmine Alcayde, Buding Duremdes, Remy Palma, Pia Gaiser, Chloe Cortez, Angel Legacion and Carmela Tunay.
High-leaping Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons will also see action to provide the scoring spark for the Blaze Spikers.
“I’m back and hopefully I can maintain my health,” said Molina, the former San Beda University star who skippered the squad when it crushed F2 Logistics in a dramatic best-of-three finals showdown last year.
“We’re the defending champion, so there’s really pressure going into this tournament. But we’re confident that we had a good preparation in the off-season and we’re ready to go.”
With five titles under its belt, including a rare sweep of the All-Filipino in 2015, Petron is arguably the league’s most decorated squad.
Luck continues to roll the Blaze Spikers’ way this year.
They ruled the Grand Prix with Lindsay Stalzer and Katherine Bell as imports before Rondina and Pons plucked the Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup title, sparking speculations that the Blaze Spikers are gunning for a rare Gram Slam.
Unfortunately, Petron bowed to rival F2 Logistics in an action-packed finals encounter in the Invitational Conference.
“Defending our crown will never be easy as all teams have prepared for this conference,” said Ian Fernandez, the chief deputy of head coach Shaq Delos Santos.
“We just have to go there and do our best in every game.”