EJ, Sisi’s absence hurts Foton

Foton captured the top spot of the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix semifinals following a masterful four-set conquest of rival Petron late Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.

The victory was such a perfect masterpiece.

The Tornadoes allowed Petron’s prolific import Stephanie Niemer to do damage in the first set before completely taking her support crew out of the picture in the third and fourth sets en route to the victory.

Lindsay Stalzer caught fire while Ariel Usher, Jaja Santiago, Dindin Manabat and Maika Ortiz all made significant contributions to lift the Tornadoes to their biggest victory of the conference so far.

Although Serbian coach Moro Branislav continues to downplay the power of the Tornadoes, it still couldn’t be denied that they are the strongest team on paper with a starting unit of Stalzer, Usher, Santiago, Manabat, Ortiz, Rhea Dimaculangan with vastly improved Bia General serving as defense specialist.

But still, there are missing links in Foton’s rotation. And the absence of those personnel could haunt them down the stretch.

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‘We miss them’

Stalzer, the first foreign player to serve as team captain of a local club, said the absence of EJ Laure and Sisi Rondina are definitely hurting their chances.

Though it doesn’t show during regular games, but their failure to train and get familiarized with Branislav’s system could be a setback in the semifinals, where they are set to battle the survivor between RC Cola-Army and Generika.

Both Laure and Rondina are having trouble keeping up with the Tornadoes as they are busy with their academics and training with University of Santo Tomas, which is preparing for the UAAP season. Prior to that, it was Santiago who missed three games after National University went to Japan for a 10-day training camp.

Rondina and Laure are proven bench players.

During the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship, the hard-hitting duo played crucial role, especially when Stalzer missed a couple of games due to back injury.

Now that they’re busy with their university commitments, the bench mob of the Tornadoes suddenly became thin.

[quote]We miss them. I mean, it’s always good to have backup player who can help us whenever we need a break. Hopefully, we’ll have them in our next game.[/quote]

Branislav agreed, saying that Rondina and Laure’s presence would make them legitimate contenders.

[quote]In my opinion, we need to have a complete team for semis and finals. That’s why as I’ve said that we are not yet in our perfect shape. A lot of work still has to be done.[/quote]

If the Tornadoes emerge victorious in the semifinals, they would advance to the best-of-three finals against the winner between Petron and either F2 Logistics or Cignal.

Stalzer said she’s hoping that they would compete as a complete unit. And with that, they would definitely be unstoppable.

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