A handful of fresh faces sprinkled with some key returnees will spice up the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Cup which fires off on Feb. 18 at The Arena in San Juan.
Three-time champion Philippine Army will be making its return as it carries the colors of RC Cola while Foton, Cignal and Petron overhauled their respective rosters to match the firepower of rookie teams F2 Logistics and New San Jose Builders, Inc. in the league’s first salvo for this year that will be aired live over TV5.
The Lady Troopers will be bringing back their core of Tina Salak, Nerissa Bautista, Honey Royse Tubino, Michelle Carolino and Jovelyn Gonzaga with Rachel Anne Daquis manning the attack zone.
The Toplanders on the other hand temporarily lost prized middle blocker Jaja Santiago and setter Ivy Perez to the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP), but made a recruiting coup when they acquired former University of Santo Tomas stars Angeli Tabaquero, Rhea Dimaculangan and Maika Ortiz in their quest for another title after winning the season-ending Grand Prix last year.
Also fashioning a souped-up roster are Cignal and Petron.
Cignal will parade former Holy Cross of Davao College ace Mary Jane Berte and Southwestern University hotshot Marlyn Llagoso together with the core of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champions College of Saint Benilde in Djanel Cheng, Jeanette Panaga and Janine Navarro.
Petron which will now be known as the Tri-Activ Spikers, tapped seasoned spikers Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Bang Pineda as well as former NCAA Most Valuable Player CJ Rosario to replace its three stars; Dindin Santiago, Aby Marano and Rach Daquis.
Santiago will sit out this season due to pregnancy while Marano and Daquis decided to move to another squad, making the country’s premier inter-club league balanced, competitive and very exciting.
“What we have is a very balanced and competitive field,” PSL president Ramon “Tats” Suzara said.
“Like in the previous conferences, looking at the lineups alone will give us a hard time determining who will take home the crown. It’s anybody’s ballgame. It all boils down to who wants it more.”
Not to be outdone are greenhorns F2 Logistics and San Jose Builders.
The Cargo Movers will be powered by the veteran pair of Cha Cruz and Paneng Mercado together with Pau Soriano, Lilet Mabbayad, Chie Saet and Danika Gendrauli while the Victorias will be carried by University of Perpetual Help stars in Coleen Bravo and Lourdes Clemente.
“This is going to be a very exciting tournament,” added Suzara, whose strong ties with the Thailand Volleyball Federation gave the league a chance to invite a top-tier Thai team to mix it up with local squads in the semifinals.
“We’re looking forward to an action-packed conference with a lot of heart-stopping plays, defensive gems and strong finishes.”