A new-look Foton squad will show up when the Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference unwraps on Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Rookie coach Aaron Velez said he will parade a well-oiled fighting unit in this prestigious women’s club tourney bankrolled by Isuzu, Sogo, Senoh, Asics, Mikasa, Mueller, UCPB Gen and Bizooku.
He said the absence of star players Jaja Santiago and Dindin Manabat will be a good opportunity for the likes of Maika Ortiz, Shaya Adorador, CJ Rosario, Mina Aganon, Bea De Leon and new-recruit Arianne Layug to shine and prove their worth.
Also tipped to make the most out of the opportunity are Iumi Yongco, Gyselle Sy, Carla Sandoval, Gen Casugod, Rainne Fabay, Ivy Perez, Jen Reyes and Kathleen Barrinuevo.
“Their absence will give other players a chance to step up,” said Velez, referring to the Santiago sisters who will see action in the V.Premier League of Japan next month.
“With Jaja and Dindin out, we will have a new look in the All-Filipino. We will not be relying on one or two players alone as other players are expected to step up and contribute.”
Foton is coming in with a lot of expectations in this tourney that was named as one of the 10 finalists in the Best Women Sports Event category in the SPIA Asia Awards next month.
After taking the league by storm and rule the Grand Prix in 2015 and 2016, things went downhill for the Tornadoes as they settled for bronze medal in the import-flavored conference this year.
Then, Foton slid all the way to seventh place in the Invitationals, prompting it to change its head coach midway into this tournament that also has ESPN5, Hyper HD and Aksyon TV as official broadcast partner.
Velez admitted that there’s also some pressure on his part.
“Sure, there is pressure,” said Velez, a low-key mentor who is looking to prove his worth against the likes of champion coaches like George Pascua of Sta. Lucia, Moro Branislav of Foton, Ramil de Jesus of F2 Logistics and Shaq Delos Santos of Petron.
“But I’m ready to deal with it. I embrace the challenge and we’re ready to compete.”