SMART-ARMY and Sta. Lucia Realty parade their re-tooled roster when they open their Pool B campaign in the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga Invitational Conference today at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Game time is at 7 p.m. with the Giga Hitters and Lady Realtors tipped to go all out in quest of their first win in this prestigious women’s club tourney bankrolled by UCPB Gen, SOGO Hotel and Isuzu with ESPN5, Aksyon TV and Hyper HD as official broadcast partners.
Prior to that, Cocolife and the returning Cherrylume-UE test each other’s mettle when they collide in the first game at 4:15 p.m.
Meanwhile, F2 Logistics jumpstarted its campaign on a high note after registering a 25-21, 25-21, 25-14 win over Foton in the opening day of this battle that also has Senoh, Asics, Mikasa, Mueller and Grand Sport as technical sponsors.
De La Salle University star Kianna Dy spearheaded the attack as she finished with 10 points to spoil the highly anticipated debut of collegiate rival star Bea de Leon for the Tornadoes.
De Leon, the former Ateneo de Manila University star blocker, managed to chip in only eight points, but she showed a lot of promise and potential on both ends.
But all eyes will be on Smart and Sta. Lucia.
After a winless campaign in the previous Grand Prix, the Giga Hitters called on the core of Philippine Army and University of Santo Tomas to form an explosive squad that is overflowing with experience and winning culture.
Lady Troopers Mary Jean Balse-Pabayo, Luth Malaluan, Nerissa Bautista, Genie Sabas and Joanne Bunag have been recalled to join Tigresses Caitlin Viray, Dimdim Pacres, Mildred Dizon and Tin Francisco in leading the Giga Hitters to an impressive finish.
“We’re an old team that looks like new,” said Smart head coach Kungfu Reyes, who led the Lady Troopers to a dramatic victory over the Thailand juniors national team in the finals of the PSL Invitationals in 2016.
“The pressure is always there and that’s what we want. We just have to overachieve and surpass the previous ranking of Smart. We won’t settle for anything less; we’ll target the best finish possible.”
The Giga Hitters, however, are tipped to have a bumpy ride against the Lady Realtors, who will be bannered by another former Ateneo star in Jhoanna Maraguinot together with Far Eastern University standouts Carly Hernandez, Jeanette Villareal and Toni Rose Basas.
Of course, mainstays Pam Lastimosa, MJ Philips, Rubie de Leon, Rebecca Rivera and Michelle Laborte are still there to provide spunk to the Sta. Lucia squad that is raring to break into the semifinals for the first time.
“We want to meet the expectation of the management to finish with a better ranking and reach at least the semifinals,” said Pascua, the architect of Petron’s historic sweep of the All-Filipino Conference in 2015.
“I think it’s achievable because I have very talented players. It only depends on how they will jell as a team.”
Games Today: (Filoil Flying V Centre)
4:15 pm – Cocolife vs Cherrylume-UE
7:00 pm – Smart-Army vs Sta. Lucia Realty