Cream of the crop?

Former national team members, college standouts, and seasoned international campaigners comprise this year’s batch of imports in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix that unravels on Oct. 21.

Sideliners claim that this group of reinforcements may be the best batch ever based on its track record, highlight reels and massive experience in the international competition.

Two-time champion Foton is poised to rule the season-ending conference anew after acquiring Sara Klisura and Katarina Vukomanovic, two standouts who were mentored by Moro Branislav in the Serbian junior national team together with future stars Milena Rasic and Maja Ognjenovic.

Foton also drafted Dragana Perunicic of Montenegro, forming what appears to be a rock-solid starting unit composed of Jaja Santiago, Dindin Manabat, Maika Ortiz and Ivy Perez.

Not to be outdone, the Tornadoes’ bitter rival in Petron also had a serious buildup.

After being destroyed by veteran Lindsay Stalzer in last year’s best-of-three finals series, the Blaze Spikers acquired her services, combining her with Japanese libero Yuri Fukuda, whom she played in the FIVB Women’s Club Championship in Manila last year.

For good measure, Petron added Hillary Hurley, a battle-scarred international campaigner who is best remembered for her heroics in the tough Korean V.League.

A prominent observer said Petron and Foton have what it takes to clash in the finals – for the third straight time.

“Foton and Petron are very serious in their buildups.”

“While Foton acquired players who are very familiar to coach Moro, Petron tapped an import – Lindsay Stalzer — who knows the league very well. These teams will have no honeymoon period and will surely hit the ground running.”

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Don’t miss the FIVB VNL 2019!

Watch all 260 games of the best men & womens international volleyball online - LIVE & on-demand!

Based on needs

Not to be outdone, other teams in F2 Logistics, Generika-Ayala, Cignal, Cocolife and Sta. Lucia recruited imports based on their needs.

Knowing that star spiker Ara Galang is not yet in fighting form, the Cargo Movers opted to recruit tall open spikers, one of them is already in the country in Kennedy Bryan.

The 6-foot-1 Virginia Tech standout, who campaigned in Italy, France and South Korea before landing in the Philippines two weeks ago, is actually the Cargo Movers’ original choice last year.

Now that she’s available, F2 Logistics grabbed her right away to fill the void that would be created by Galang’s sporadic minutes.

Generika-Ayala also did very well in its recruitment.

The Lifesavers acquired the services of 6-foot-5 opener spiker Katelyn Driscoll and Katarina Pilepic, a six-foot spiker dubbed as “Croatian Hammer” in her stint for Arizona University in Division I of the US NCAA.

Head coach Francis Vicente said their recruitment was done to address their need for size in the open spiker position, especially since their openers in Patty Jane Orendain and Fiola Ceballos are quite undersized for the tough Grand Prix battle.

Talking about size, Cignal recruited a pair of middle blockers and a libero to solve their problem at the defensive end.

American Alexis Matthews and Australian Beth Carey will join Japanese-Canadian Mami Miyashita in holding the fort for the HD Spikers, who are beaming with talent on offense due to the presence of national team member Jovelyn Gonzaga, Royse Tubino and Rachel Ann Daquis.

On the same note, newbies Sta. Lucia Realty and Cocolife also made heads turn with their choices.

The Lady Realtors grabbed two Canadian national team members in middle blocker Marisa Field and libero Kristen Moncks as well as a Bulgarian national team member in open spiker Slavina Koleva.

Sta. Lucia head coach Sammy Acaylar said the wisdom behind their recruitment is to come up with a “balanced team that has strength in all three key areas – middle, open and backline.”

Cocolife, for its part, acquired Taylor Milton and Tai Manu-Olevao.

Milton, a lefty from Sta. Clara University is said to become one of the league’s most exciting players with her deadly brew of athleticism and power while Manu-Olevao is known for her versatility, something that the Asset Managers need especially now that they will parade the veteran core of Philippine Army.

“Teams did a good job in scouting and recruiting their respective imports. They acquired reinforcements based on their needs to gain an edge over their competitors.”

“We’re pretty sure that the Grand Prix is going to be one hell of a battle.”

Two more teams are set to see action in the season-ending tournament to hike the total number of teams to nine.

They, however, would release their respective rosters, including their imports, next week.

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