FOUR powerhouse squads—bolstered by talented imports—march to the warpath to raise the curtain of the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga Grand Prix today (Saturday) at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Two-time champion Foton kicks off its title-retention bid when it clashes with Cignal at 6 p.m., while Generika-Ayala tests the mettle of heavyweight Petron in the 4 p.m. opener of this prestigious women’s volleyball tourney bankrolled by Mikasa, Senoh, Mueller, Grand Sport, Rebisco, Island Rose, Cloudfone, UCPB Gen and Asics.
Both matches will be shown live on ESPN5, the league’s official broadcast partner.
The formal opening ceremonies, however, is set next Saturday at the same venue where incumbent United States national women’s volleyball team head coach and FIVB Hall of Famer Karsh Kiraly will serve as guest of honor.
After ruling the past two editions of this season-ending conference, the Tornadoes are again coming in as heavy favorites due to the recruitment of prolific Serbians Sara Klisura and Katarina Vukamanovic as well as Montenegrin Dragana Perunicnic.
Foton also brought in the solid core of Jen Reyes, EJ Laure, CJ Rosario and last year’s Most Valuable Player Jaja Santiago, who gained massive international experience following a 17-day training in Japan and competing in the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship and the 29th Southeast Asian Games.
“We are prepared,” said Foton coach Moro Branislav, adding that Klisura and Vukamanovic are his former players in a club league in Belgrade while Perunicnic is a personal choice.
“In my opinion, the Grand Prix is a very important tournament. So, we might as well assemble the strongest possible team. I like our preparation and I believe that our team will make it all the way to the championship.”
But the Tornadoes’ road to an unprecedented GP three-peat would never be easy.
A team overflowing with seasoned players in Cignal is tipped to give Foton a hard time as it recruited a pair of strong middle blockers and a heady libero to compliment the firepower of Janine Marciano, Honey Royse Tubino, Paneng Mercado, Rachel Anne Daquis and Jovelyn Gonzaga at the wings.
Australian national team skipper Beth Carey, American blocker Alexis Matthews and Japanese libero Mami Miyashita were tapped to bolster the HD Spikers’ defensive fortress in what looms to be the most serious, most competitive edition of the Grand Prix.
Games Today (Filoil Flying V Centre)
4 p.m. – Generika-Ayala vs Petron
6 p.m. – Cignal vs Foton