Intensity is expected to soar as Petron and F2 Logistics aim to book another finals duel when they clash with separate foes in Game 1 of the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix best-of-three semifinal series today at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Blaze Spikers march to warpath at 7 p.m. in pursuit of a win that would send them to the brink of another finals appearance in this prestigious women’s club tourney that has ESPN5 and 5Plus as broadcast partners.
Also looking to move closer to the finals of this battle that is also bankrolled by Asics, Mueller, Mikasa, Senoh, Team Rebel Sports, Bizooku, UCPB Gen, Cocolife, Hotel Sogo and Data Project are the Cargo Movers, who will battle PLDT Home Fibr in the 4:15 appetizer.
All eyes will be on Petron, especially after sweeping the 14-game classification phase and crushing Sta. Lucia with an emphatic straight-set victory in the quarterfinals couple of weeks ago.
Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos said their success should not be credited to their imports in Stephanie Niemer and Katherine Bell alone as their local crew led by Mika Reyes, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina, Denden Lazaro, Rhea Dimaculangan and Remy Palma had also stepped up in a bid to corner their second straight Grand Prix title.
“I’m very happy with them (Bell and Niemer). They have been very professional and can easily adjust anytime,” said Delos Santos, who is looking to become the second coach to sweep the entire tournament.
“But I also tell our local players not to rely on our imports. That’s why I’m so happy to see them respond and deliver the goods, whether on offense or on defense. This winning run is truly a total team effort from the girls.”
But the Blaze Spikers’ vaunted roster should prepare for the worse.
The HD Spikers blew hot and cold in the classification, but are now beaming with confidence after dominating United VC, who brought in a new import in Thai superstar Sutadta Chuewulim, in the quarterfinals.
Imports Erica Wilson and Ana Artemeva are now blending perfectly with the local players bannered by Rachel Anne Daquis, Janine Navarro, Jheck Dionela and national team member Mylene Paat, making them very dangerous and capable of pulling off an upset.
“I think we have already found the right formula entering the semifinals,” said Cignal coach Edgar Barroga, adding that they are no spring chickens as Daquis, Dionela and Paat are no strangers to pressure-packed battles.
“If they are ready, we are also ready. We have already studied all possible attack options and made some adjustments defensively. Petron is the best team in the league right now, but we would go to the semis with enough confidence to dethrone them.”
“It’s going to be a very interesting battle.”
Also expected to draw attention is the encounter between F2 Logistics and PLDT Home Fibr.
The Cargo Movers also made a strong impact in the classification, but the Power Hitters shocked them with a four-set conquest last March 16, making their semifinal collision very exciting and dramatic.
But Ramil de Jesus, who will be stacked against an equally-seasoned coach in Roger Gorayeb, is confident on the ability of his wards.
“We’ve been in this situation before and we are in a very familiar territory,” said de Jesus, who will bank anew on imports Lindsay Stalzer and MJ Perez as well as local stars Aby Maraño, Majoy Baron and Dawn Macandili.
“We won’t be taking PLDT lightly because we know that they’re capable of springing a surprise. We have prepared hard for them, especially their imports who played extremely well in the quarterfinals.”