The opening serve has yet to be made, but Petron already looms as the heaviest contender in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix starting Oct. 21 at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Blaze Spikers have what it takes to win it all.
They have solid defenders in Mika Reyes, Ria Meneses, Remy Palma and Japanese libero Yuri Fukuda as well as enough firepower in team captain Ces Molina, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Bernadeth Pons and Sisi Rondina.
Their other imports – Lindsay Stalzer and Hillary Hurley – are said to be two of the strongest and most experienced guest players in this batch, making them a solid force to be reckoned with in the season-ending conference.
Volleyverse asked around and at least six coaches pointed at Petron to emerge as champion in what could be the most competitive battle in the country’s most prestigious league.
Cocolife mentor Kungfu Reyes even went on record, saying that they have the experience, the personnel and the teamwork to conquer the Grand Prix over the likes of Cignal, F2 Logistics and reigning champion Foton.
“I go for Petron.”
“They have the experience, the same people and the teamwork to emerge as champion. They are obviously the strongest team this conference. It’s now up to us to catch up and make some adjustments inside the court.”
But more than the strength, more than the firepower, there’s one thing that makes Petron a viable choice to win the title: hunger.
Despite winning the All-Filipino Conference crown couple of months back, the Blaze Spikers are said to be hungry to win the crown jewel of the PSL – the Grand Prix title.
The last time Petron won the Grand Prix was in 2014 when Alaina Bergsma and Erika Adachi conspired with local stars Dindin Manabat, Fille Cayetano, Gretchen Ho and Maica Morada to claim the crown.
It was all frustrations from there as a new Grand Prix supremo in Foton emerged.
The Tornadoes were led by Stalzer and Katie Messing to win the 2015 crown before winning it again the following year with Stalzer conspiring with Ariel Usher.
Adachi and fellow Brazilian Rupia Inck bannered Petron in 2015 before Stephanie Niemer and Serena Warner came over for another sorry finish the following year.
This time, Stalzer crossed enemy lines and joined Petron in a bid to shoot for another crown.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, Stalzer said she joined the Blaze Spikers to challenge herself and try to win the Grand Prix title against the Tornadoes.
“I like to keep them on their toes. I like them to be unpredictable.”
“The opportunity came up and I thought it’s a new big challenge so why not try for it. Let’s do this.”
Stalzer said the road to the crown would be littered with a lot of challenges.
It’s now up to them to do their best and win it all.