Foton joins PSL arms race

The Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix starting Oct. 21 is slowly turning into an arms race as clubs try to recruit the best foreign players available.

And two-time champion Foton is no exception.

Foton team manager Diane Santiago formally announced the inclusion of their third import – a libero – in Katarina Vukomanovic of Serbia.

Santiago, the sister of Foton stars Dindin Manabat and Jaja Santiago, said their hopes are high on the seasoned Serbian defender as she is also a personal choice of head coach Moro Branislav.

Together with fellow Foton recruit Sara Klisura, the 27-year old Vukamanovic was mentored by Branislav in the Serbian national junior team together with stars like Milena Rasic and Maja Ognjenovic.

After her stint in the 2008 Junior European Championship and 2009 Junior World Championship, Vukomanovic displayed her talent for Tent Obrenovac and Vizura Beograd at the CEV European Cup.

Vukamanovic will join open spikers Klisura and Dragana Perunicnic of Montenegro in the explosive Foton squad that already has national team members Santiago and Maika Ortiz as well as the returning Manabat, Jen Reyes and rising star EJ Laure on its roster.

“She (Vukamanovic) was the player of coach Moro before so it’s really a huge advantage for us.”

“If I’m not mistaken she was also on the same Serbian team which coach Moro handled. Other stars were also there as well as one of our imports, Sara Klisura.”

Serbia is known as a volleyball powerhouse after emerging runner-up to China in the Rio Olympics last year.

Tight battle

The recruitment of three European stars who will compliment the coaching style of Branislav is a testament that the Tornadoes are leaving no stone unturned in defending their crown.

But it wouldn’t be easy.

Generika-Ayala recruited a pair of American power-hitters in Katelyn Driscoll and Katarina Pilepic while Cignal will parade three reinforcements in middle blockers Beth Carey of Australia and Alexis Matthews of United States as well as libero Mami Miyashita of Japan.

Petron flew in exciting Japanese libero Yuri Fukuda, but it is rumored to announce the recruitment of two powerful spikers in the next few days.

Not to be outdone, F2 Logistics tapped its original choice last year in Kennedy Bryan while looking to secure the commitment of another outside hitter.

Santiago knows that it won’t be an easy battle, but they are ready to rumble to claim their third straight Grand Prix title.

In fact, they are planning to gently break the 6-foot-1 Manabat into the rotation in the early stretch before completely unleashing her in the latter part of November, just when the race for the crown heats up.

If that happens, Foton would have a lot of firepower with Manabat and Ortiz at the middle, Santiago at the opposite, Klisura and Perunicnic at the open and Vukamanovic and Reyes shuffling at the backline with either Ivy Perez or veteran Rubie de Leon directing the plays.

“We know that defending our crown won’t be easy, but we will be ready.”