Pacesetters Cignal and Philips Gold seek to extend their scorching runs when they lock horns with separate foes as action in the 2015 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix women’s volleyball tournament heats up Thursday at The Arena in San Juan.
The HD Spikers stake their immaculate slate when they battle a dangerous Foton side at 6:15 pm while the Lady Slammers test the mettle of struggling RC Cola-Air Force in the 4:15 pm opening encounter of this prestigious inter-club tourney presented by Asics and backed by Milo with Mikasa, Senoh and Mueller as technical partners and TV5 as official broadcaster.
Probably the biggest surprise this conference, Cignal is ahead of the pack after racking up three consecutive wins in convincing fashion. Philips Gold dropped its debut game to the HD Spikers before scoring back-to-back triumphs over Meralco and reigning champion Petron to occupy the second spot with a 2-1 win-loss card.
Not far behind are the Tornadoes and the Raiders with 1-1 while the young Power Spikers — who are composed of the nucleus of UAAP heavyweight De La Salle University — have yet to find their groove as they closed the first round without a single win in five games.
But things will not be easy for Cignal, especially with Foton dead serious to bounce back from a sorry 25-21, 20-25, 13-25, 25-12, 9-15 setback from the hands of Petron last week.
Cignal coach Sammy Acaylar said all teams are on equal footing and everybody is capable of pulling a surprise.
He also downplayed speculations that they are the team to beat, saying that they are still working on that chemistry since most of them are new to the system.
“Depende na din sa ganda ng gising yan,” said Acaylar, who piloted the HD Spikers to a bridesmaid finish in the league’s inaugural conference in 2013. “We have to keep on working hard because the league is very balanced. There’s no clear-cut favorite this year. We can’t afford to relax at baka madisgrasya pa.”
Ariel Usher, former University of Portland star who has been averaging a whopping 28.8 points per game, will again serve as the focal point of offense while Amanda Anderson will anchor the defensive end in the middle position together with veteran Michelle Laborte, Cherry Vivas, April Ross Hingpit and rookie Fritz Gallenero.
Also expected to draw another huge weekday crowd is the battle between Philips Gold and RC Cola-Air Force.
Slowly gaining a solid throng of followers due to their fast plays, booming smashes and great defensive effort, the Lady Slammers unleashed another monster performance down the stretch to eke out a pulsating 25-19, 21-25, 27-25, 25-23 win over the Power Spikers late Tuesday.
In that game UCLA standout Bojana Todorovic was simply unstoppable as she peppered Meralco’s defensive wall with razor-sharp smashes from all angles to finish with 22 kills and an ace for a total of 23 points.
Philips Gold however vowed not to rest on its laurels as it will be facing a hungry and determined RC Cola-Air Force, which suffered a four-set defeat to Petron also last Tuesday.
“We have to be ready because they will bounce back — that’s for sure,” said Philips Gold coach Francis Vicente. “Mahirap kalaban ang RC Cola-Air Force at this point. Palaban ang team na ‘yan. We have to be at our best against them because I’m pretty sure that they will bounce back from that earlier loss to Petron.”
Aside from Todorovic, Vicente is also resting his hopes on import Alexis Olgard with Michelle Gumabao, Myla Pablo, Desiree Dadang and Mel Gohing providing local support against the star-studded crew of Puerto Rican Lynda Morales, Sara McClinton, Rhea Dimaculangan, Maika Ortiz and Judy Caballejo for the Raiders.
Philips Gold 2-1
RC Cola-Air Force 1-1
Games Thursday at The Arena, San Juan. P100 for both games, buy at the gate or via SM Tickets.
4:15 pm — Philips Gold vs RC Cola-Air Force
6:15 pm — Foton vs Cignal