Jaja Santiago announced her return from a three-game layoff in a big way as she dropped 30 points to steer Foton to a nail-biting 25-20, 20-25, 29-27, 21-25, 15-7 victory over RC Cola-Army on Saturday in the Asics Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Displaying her rare blend of height and athleticism, Santiago torched the Lady Troopers from start to finish to steer the Tornadoes to a hard-earned victory in this prestigious club tourney sponsored by Mikasa, Mueller, Grand Sport and Senoh with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
Stacked against the veteran RC Cola-Army side, Foton banked on its steady services and solid reception to withstand the Lady Troopers’ furious rally in the deciding set.
Santiago, who is now looking comfortable playing as an opposite spiker, fired 22 kills, five blocks and three aces to finish with 30 points while import Lindsay Stalzer delivered 19 kills and three blocks for 25 markers.
It was the Tornadoes’ seventh win as they approach their last two games of the preliminaries against Cignal and rival Petron in a rematch of last year’s finals.
“This is such a good win for us,” said Foton coach Moro Branislav of Serbia, saying that they wanted a strong performance after absorbing a four-set loss to F2 Logistics last Tuesday. “Although we’re glad with the win, our focus is the playoffs because anything can happen there. I’m just glad with how the team responded after our previous lost.”
Former United States juniors national team member Kierra Holst tallied 24 points while Jovelyn Gonzaga and Honey Royse Tubino added 17 and 15 hits for the Lady Troopers, who absorbed their fifth loss in eight games.
Generika logs first win
Earlier, Generika finally snapped its string of misfortunes as it crushed Cignal, 25-15, 25-20, 25-22, to cop its first win of the conference.
With the win, the Lifesavers (1-9) gained a handsome chance of bagging the fifth spot in the playoffs pending the result of the last assignments of the HD Spikers (1-7) against reigning champion Foton on Tuesday and RC Cola-Army on Thursday.
Based on the tournament format, the top two finishers in the double-round preliminaries will occupy the two automatic semifinal slots while the third seed will face No. 6 and the fourth seed will clash with No. 5 in sudden-death games.
The winner between the third seed and No. 6 will clash with No. 2 while the survivor between the fourth seed and No. 5 square off with No. 1 in another do-or-die semifinal showdown set on Dec. 3 at the Ibalong Centrum for Recreation in Legazpi City.
Generika coach Francis Vicente said that after they have posted such a morale-boosting victory, they would train hard to pull off upsets against the heavyweights in the playoffs and, possibly, in the semifinals and the finals.
“I’m confident. We will not give up now that we’ve already won a game,” said Vicente, the University of the East head coach who nearly brought Philips Gold to the finals of this battle that also has Focus Athletics, KLab Cyscorpions, Petron, Foton and F2 Logistics as sponsors last year.
“We have a goal and we need to achieve it no matter what it takes.”
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