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Petron, F2 Logistics open semis’ bids

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Games Today:
(Filoil Flying V Centre)

4:15 pm – Petron vs Cocolife
7:00 pm – F2 Logistics vs Foton

Reigning champion F2 Logistics and Petron start their long, difficult trek back to the finals when they clash with separate foes in Game 1 of the best-of-three semifinals series of the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix today at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

The Cargo Movers battle Foton at 7 pm while the Blaze Spikers collide with Cocolife in the 4:15 pm curtain raiser of this blockbuster double-header bankrolled by Isuzu and UCPB Gen with ESPN5 as official broadcast partner.

After figuring in a dramatic finals showdown in this prestigious women’s club tourney that also has Senoh, Mikasa, Asics, LGR and Grand Sport as technical sponsors last year, both F2 Logistics and Petron were tipped to come up with a strong championship run.

They sliced through the classifications with an identical 9-1 win-loss mark before breezing past their respective foes – Smart and Generika-Ayala – in dominant fashion in the quarterfinals.

But the semifinals wouldn’t be easy.

F2 Logistics, for one, would be clashing against a Foton side that would roll out the red carpet for former Most Valuable Player Jaja Santiago, who is fresh from a Final Four stint with National University in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).

Aside from Santiago, college stars Diana Carlos and Isa Molde of University of the Philippines would also be around as well as imports Elizabeth Wendel and Channon Thompson, the Trinidad and Tobago national team standout who is slowly developing her chemistry with local stars Dindin Manabat, Gyselle Sy and Maika Ortiz.

Tornadoes’ head coach Rommel Abella said they are ready to go to war and expose the weaknesses of the powerhouse Cargo Movers to dethrone them in this import-flavored battle that is considered as the toughest and most competitive conference in Philippine volleyball.

“We’re facing a well-oiled machine,” said Abella, noting that they have to neutralize imports Maria Jose Perez and Kennedy Bryan as well as mainstays Aby Marano, Kim Fajardo and skipper Cha Cruz if they want to pull off a massive upset.

“Still, F2 Logistics has some lapses. We need to pounce on those lapses and show that we want it more than them. We’re ready to triple our effort if we have to. The important thing is to show that we are hungrier and we want it more than them.”

Also expected to draw attention is the battle royale between Petron and Cocolife.

With the Asset Managers rolling the dice by hiring FIVB World Grand Prix veteran Marta Drpa in the middle of the tournament, the Blaze Spikers responded by calling in a seasoned international campaigner Katherine Bell to replace Hillary Hurley, who is nursing a recurring ankle injury.

A 6-foot-1 former University of Texas standout, Bell is known for her versatility as she can play the open, opposite and middle blocker roles. She saw action in Puerto Rico, South Korea and Turkey before flying in last week to power the Blaze Spikers in their championship quest.

“She is a hardworking player who can play multiple positions,” said Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos, who will bank on veteran Lindsay Stalzer, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina and Mika Reyes for additional firepower.

“She’s a good communicator who loves to motivate her teammates. I hope she can help us reach our ultimate goal, which is to win the title.”