Friendship shapes up Grand Prix

With the Chooks To Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix already in full blast, all imports have perfectly settled in and blended with local players.

Foton looks comfortable with its three European imports while Petron is rolling with the American tandem of Hillary Hurley and Lindsay Stalzer with Japanese Yuri Fukuda manning the backline.

Of course, F2 Logistics appears to have hit the jackpot with its acquisition of Kennedy Bryan of the United States and Maria Jose Perez of Venezuela while Cocolife veterans Tina Salak, Joanne Bunag, Mary Jean Balse, Michele Gumabao and Denden Lazaro are having no problem playing with Tai Manu-Olevao and Taylor Milton.

But landing on their respective teams wasn’t a mere stroke of luck.

Before these foreign players signed on the dotted lines, a merry-go-round of negotiations and transactions happened behind the scene that underscored the competitiveness and cooperation among PSL teams.

It may sound ridiculous now, but let’s revisit the wheeling and dealings that shaped what could be the biggest, the most competitive and the best PSL Grand Prix ever.

Cocolife’s dilemma

Stalzer, the most experienced import, wasn’t really supposed to go to Petron.

Sources around the league revealed that Cocolife was already sold on acquiring the former Most Valuable Player (MVP) as its import.

A combination of speed, power, and athleticism, the Asset Managers were seeing Stalzer be their cornerstone, the anchor of a team composed of defense-minded veterans to their first-ever PSL crown.

But there was a little problem: She’s coming off an injury following a fruitful stint with Jakarta Elektrik in the Indonesian League.

A source, who spoke to Volleyverse on condition of anonymity, said Cocolife was quite doubtful to tap her and wanted to explore its options before formally signing her.

The Asset Managers left for Vietnam to compete in an international tourney.

When they returned, Stalzer was gone.

She’s already with Petron.

“Petron was quick to the draw and beat Cocolife in the quest for Lindsay’s services.”

The Blaze Spikers, however, didn’t let the Asset Managers feel bad.

As a sign of friendship, Petron recommended its hot prospect for Cocolife to pursue. The import is a strong lefty who can hit from almost all angles on the court, making her one of the best imports ever to play in the country if her offensive prowess would be maximized.

It was Taylor Milton.

“As far as I know, Petron wanted Taylor so bad. But since they already struck gold in Lindsay, they sent Taylor to Cocolife. They reached an agreement and Taylor is now leading the charge for the Asset Managers.”

Hawaiian connection

With Milton safely in, Cocolife kicked off its quest for its second import.

A powerful spiker from the University of Hawaii barged into its radar – Tai Manu-Olevao.

The source said Cocolife officials reached out to Manu-Olevao and the two camps appeared to have already reached a verbal deal.

F2 Logistics, on the other hand, was in Honolulu when it stumbled upon the former University of Hawaii standout.
Shawna-Lei Santos, who also played high school volleyball in Honolulu, spoke to her to discuss the possibility of powering the Cargo Movers to the Grand Prix title.

Suddenly, the potential deal between Cocolife and Manu-Olevao appeared murky.

“Tai was in doubt whether she will still push through with Cocolife or not.”

“Cocolife gave her 12 hours to decide before they move on. Fortunately, Tai grabbed the offer and she went on to join the Asset Managers.”

Still, friendship among PSL clubs cropped up.

Cocolife didn’t just leave F2 Logistics with an empty basket.

To makeup, the Asset Managers referred Venezuelan Maria Jose Perez to the Cargo Movers, who already have already struck a deal with American Kennedy Bryan.

Perez, who already has an Olympic experience under her belt, is very eager to play in the Philippines. In fact, she was Stalzer’s former teammate in Jakarta and she referred her to Cocolife in the early stretch of their negotiation, thinking that she would be suiting up for the Asset Managers.

“The Asset Managers then referred Maria to the Cargo Movers since Tai already signed with them. F2 Logistics liked her and an agreement was reached.”

“So you can just imagine how the league would look like if Lindsay and Maria ended up with Cocolife, Taylor with Petron and Tai with F2 Logistics. Those are some of the many ‘what-ifs’ that make this league interesting.”

True enough, the season-ending conference is not just all about serious competition.

It’s also about friendship, camaraderie, and unity among clubs to make it the biggest, the most competitive, the best PSL Grand Prix ever.