Cignal vowed to go all out in its defense of the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference crown as the league’s second conference unwraps this Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Despite losing some key personnel, the HD Spikers are still pumped up and ready to face the giants of this prestigious women’s club league bankrolled by Isuzu and UCPB Gen with ESPN5, Hyper and Aksyon TV as broadcast partners.
Head coach Edgar Barroga said the absence of stalwarts Jovelyn Gonzaga, Honey Royse Tubino and Janine Marciano due to injuries inspires them to work harder to defend the title they won last year together with guest squad Kobe Shinwa University of Japan.
Gonzaga and Marciano crashed with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury at the tail end of the Grand Prix last year.
Tubino joined Cocolife before moving back to the Philippine Army, which will carry the colors of Smart.
Also missing from last year’s title-winning squad are Chie Saet and Paneng Mercado, who opted to move to another league.
Barroga said the road back to the crown is littered with challenges, but they are working hard to give other squads, especially Petron, F2 Logistics and Foton, a serious run for their money.
“To be honest, defending the title is never easy,” said Barroga. “But I can see the players’ willingness and determination. They treat this situation more as a challenge than an obstacle. We may not be as star-studded as last year, but we’re making up for it by working harder.”
With those stars gone, Barroga is pinning his hopes on seasoned spiker Rachel Anne Daquis, national pool member Mylene Paat, Janine Navarro and Rialen Sante as well as middle blockers Cherry Vivas and Shirley Salamagos, playmaker Acy Masangkay and libero Jheck Dionela.
Daquis is displaying her vintage form in their past few trainings, prompting Barroga to appoint her as the cornerstone of their bid.
“We’re devising some plays, especially for Rachel,” said Barroga, referring to Daquis, the former national team skipper who is now the heart and soul of these HD Spikers.
“We know that she’s been hampered with injuries the past couple of conferences. We want to bring back her confidence. We want her to lead us back to the title. She is our leader.”