It’s going to be a long, difficult journey for RC Cola-Army when it marches back to the Philippine Superliga (PSL) for the 2016 PSL Invitational women’s volleyball tournament on Feb. 18 at The Arena in San Juan.
The Lady Troopers, winners of the league’s first three titles before taking a three-conference hiatus, are tipped to have their hands full when they battle a very competitive field composed of taller, younger and more aggressive players in this tourney that will be aired live over TV5.
“It’s now an entirely different ballgame,” said RC Cola-Army coach Emilio “Kungfu” Reyes.
“Yes, we dominated the league, but that was three years ago. A lot of things already happened, a lot of young players got stronger. We’re not really sure if we can still win the way we used to be.”
Reyes added that they will be walking wounded as his prized setter in 39-year old Tina Salak is not in perfect shape while other seasoned spikers like 37-year old Michelle Carolino, 32-year old Mary Jean Balse-Pabayo and 34-year old Joanne Bunag are also slowing down.
However it will open the door for other stars to shine like Jovelyn Gonzaga, Honey Royse Tubino, Tin Agno and Rachel Anne Daquis, the open hitter who bannered Petron to the All-Filipino Cup crown last year.
“Tina’s not in hundred percent. Her knees are already bothering her,” said Reyes, who also calls the shots for University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP.
“But it’s okay. We have a young setter in (Jane) Gonzales. Tina is helping her, giving her all the wisdoms she acquired from her long playing career.”
Reyes said Foton will be a team to watch as well as Petron and newcomers San Jose Builders and F2 Logistics, which will parade former La Salle stars Cha Cruz, Paneng Mercado and Chie Saet.
“But among them, Cignal is the deadliest,” he said. “Look at their lineup; all of them are young and hungry. Some of them came from (College of) Saint Benilde which won the NCAA title recently. They also have a veteran in (Michelle) Laborte who can guide them. They are a complete team.”
“This tournament will be the biggest challenge for us. All the stars of the NCAA, UAAP and other leagues in the provinces are here. The field is very competitive. Siguradong mapapalaban kami dito.”