A three-cornered battle looms among favorites Cocolife, Petron and F2 Logistics in the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga Grand Prix, which fires off this Saturday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
After barging into the semifinals for the first time last year, the Asset Managers stacked up their roster with quality talents, making them a solid force in this tourney bankrolled by Asics, Mikasa, Mueller, Senoh, Brand Sport and UCPB Gen.
The Asset Managers acquired import Sara Klisura from Foton, setter Shawna-Lei Santos and Danika Gendrauli from F2 Logistics and spiker Honey Royse Tubino from Cignal to join the veteran-laden crew of Tina Salak, Denden Lazaro, Joanne Bunag, Nerissa Bautista and Mary Jean Balse with American Taylor Milton as the other reinforcement.
For good measure, Cocolife also tapped noted Serbian mentor Moro Branislav to replace Kungfu Reyes, who slid down to assistant coach to shift his focus on University of Santo Tomas in the ongoing University Athletic Association of the Philippines.
“All teams have upgraded their respective lineups so this is going to be a tough road for us. We have to prepare hard and be ready. This is going to be a war,” said Branislav, beaming optimism over their chances in this battle that also has ESPN5 as official broadcast partner and Island Rose and LGR as official suppliers.
Not to be outdone, Petron also made some key additions to fortify its intact core.
The Blaze Spikers lost bench players Mina Aganon to Foton and April Ross Hingpit, Bang Pineda and Marivic Meneses to Generika-Ayala, but acquired former UST standout Chloe Cortez, Luth Malaluan and Pia Gaiser to boost their defense as well as backup setter Angelica Legacion.
Of course, imports Lindsay Stalzer and Hillary Hurley of United States and libero Yuri Fukuda of Japan will be back to join Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina, Mika Reyes and Rhea Dimaculangan in their hunt in this tourney that will formally open at the Sta. Rosa City Sports Complex on Feb. 24
“Our campaign last year ended in a heartbreak so we will try our best to win it this time,” said Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos, recalling their massive meltdown in the best-of-three finals series against F2 Logistics last year.
True enough, reigning champion Cargo Movers remain strong.
Despite losing Kianna Dy, Dawn Macandili, Majoy Baron and other players of De La Salle University, F2 Logistics retained its strength with the acquisition of middle blocker Lourdes Clemente and the return of imports Kennedy Bryan of United States and Maria Jose Perez of Venezuela.
The Cargo Movers also added that Japanese libero Minami Yoshioka to fill the defensive void created by Macandili’s absence.
“We may have lost some players, but I think we’ll be fine,” said F2 Logistics coach Ramil de Jesus, who will be banking on Kim Fajardo, Aby Marano and the returning Ara Galang anew.