Judging from what he saw in the first round, Petron coach George Pascua concluded that it will take a long and difficult journey before the Tri Activ Spikers could win the title of the 2016 PLDT Home Ultera Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference.
One of the country’s brightest young mentors, Pascua noted that RC Cola-Army remains a force to be reckoned with while Foton, F2 Logistics and San Jose Builders are all capable of springing a surprise in this premier inter-club tournament bankrolled by Asics, Mikasa, Senoh, Mueller and Grand Sports with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
The Lady Troopers despite taking a three-conference hiatus have yet to lose their deadly form as they raced to three consecutive victories in emphatic fashions.
Their latest feat — a straight-set triumph over the Victorias — was so impressive that it took only an hour and 11 minutes to be decided with the star-studded cast of Jovelyn Gonzaga, Honey Royse Tubino and Rachel Anne Daquis doing damage from the attack zone.
The Cargo Movers are also a team to beat as former De La Salle University stars Cha Cruz and Aby Marano starting to gel with their teammates while Paneng Mercado is expected to join their campaign in the second round to give them another solid option in the attack zone.
The Toplanders are still there as the core of University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) University of Santo Tomas in Rhea Dimaculangan, Angeli Tabaquero, Maika Ortiz is starting to gain more confidence playing with young guns like Angeli Araneta, Patty Orendain and Danna Henson.
“It’s a very competitive field,” said Pascua, whose Tri Activ Spikers will plunge into action in the second round on March 8 against fellow powerhouse Cignal bannered by veteran Michelle Laborte with National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champions Djanel Cheng, Jeanette Panaga and Janine Navarro.
“I think RC Cola-Army remains very strong. They have very good attackers and their blocking remains solid. I think we have to come up with very long rallies to tire them out. It’s going to be an exciting match.”
Pascua said his wards led by seasoned utility Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, former NCAA Most Valuable Player CJ Rosario, Ces Molina, Maica Morada and Bang Pineda are very eager to give their best against RC Cola-Army which won the league’s first three titles before Petron took the throne last year.
“They are the country’s best club team, no doubt about it,” he said. “Playing against them is truly an honor. So the girls are all motivated to do well against them, especially now that we already have an idea on how they competed in the first round.”
“It’s not going to be easy,” he added. “RC Cola-Army is just one of the six teams — including the team from Thailand — that we have to overcome before winning the title. We have to be at our very best if we want to emerge victorious in this elite tournament.”
March 8 Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Arena
4pm F2 Logistics vs New San Jose Builders (Live on TV5 and AksyonTV)
6pm Petron vs Cignal (Live on AksyonTV)