LAST year’s finals protagonists battle in a grudge match as undefeated Foton takes on Petron in the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix today at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Action starts at 7 pm, following the encounter between Victoria Sports-UST and Sta. Lucia Realty in the 4:15 appetizer of this prestigious club league bankrolled by Mikasa, Grand Sport, Senoh, Mueller, Rebisco, Island Rose, Cloudfone and UCPB Gen.
Foton and Petron are heavily favored in this tournament that also has Gerflor and Gold’s Gym as technical sponsors and ESPN5 as official broadcast partner.
They have met in finals showdowns in the past two years with the Tornadoes emerging as champions on both times.
But this year will be different.
Foton’s gem of an import in former Most Valuable Player (MVP) Lindsay Stalzer had crossed lines and joined Petron, together with fellow American Hillary Hurley and Japanese Yuri Fukuda. Petron also has a solid core of local stars in Rhea Dimaculangan, Sisi Rondina, Mika Reyes, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Remy Palma, Frances Molina and Ria Meneses.
The Tornadoes also launched a massive buildup tapping three Eastern European imports in Sara Klisura and Katarina Vukamanovic of Serbia and Dragana Perunicnic of Montenegro to join head coach Moro Branislav and local crew of Jaja Santiago, Maika Ortiz, Jen Reyes and EJ Laure.
The result was impressive as the Tornadoes won their first four matches, making them the strongest team in this tourney that is considered as the toughest in the country due to the presence of superb imports providing high level of competition.
The Blaze Spikers, for their part, won their first three games before suffering a four-set loss to another powerhouse in F2 Logistics last week in Bacolod City. But they quickly regained their composure as they prevailed over Victoria Sports-UST, 25-16, 25-14, 25-14.
Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos knows that facing Foton will not be a walk in the park, especially with its brilliant coach, powerful attackers and rock-solid defense.
He, however, vowed to show up prepared, knowing that they have a personal score to settle against their bitter rivals.
“Foton is such a tough and solid team. They have a good coach, a good system and good players. It’s going to be a very challenging battle for us. But we’ll be ready,” said Delos Santos, who is seeking to avert his setback to Branislav in his coaching debut in the Grand Prix finals last year.
Branislav said they know Petron will be going for the kill and they have to be ready.
“The match against Petron will be very crucial,” said the seasoned Serbian mentor. “We know they want to give us our first loss, so we have to do everything to stop them. It’s going to be an exciting match. I will surely prepare my team.”