All eyes will be on Petron when the Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference fires off this Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.
After falling short in the Invitationals, the Blaze Spikers will be parading a powerhouse roster that is enough to knock the crown off the head of F2 Logistics.
National team captain Mika Reyes will be at the forefront of the defense together with a solid cast of new recruits like Marivic Meneses, Sisi Rondina, Toni Rose Basas and defense specialist Ria Duremdes.
Far Eastern University stars Remy Palma and Bernadeth Pons will also return to help mainstays Carmela Tunay, Frances Molina, Mina Aganon, April Ross Hingpit, Rhea Dimaculangan and Aiza Pontillas in their quest for glory.
Head coach Shaq Delos Santos admitted that his team has the strength and the firepower to dominate, but that doesn’t mean that the ultimate prize is already in the bag.
He said just like other teams, they still have to work hard for it.
[quote]“Yes, we may be strong on paper, but we still have to work hard to win the title.”[/quote]
[quote]“I’m telling the girls that nothing comes easy. Having a strong lineup is nothing if we will not work hard to win the title. There’s still a lot of work to be done and we have to do it now.”[/quote]
In fact, national team members Reyes, Molina, Dimaculangan and Maizo-Pontillas still have a lot of catching-ups to do after competing for Rebisco-PSL Manila in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship in Kazakhstan.
[quote]“That’s the first order of battle when they arrive here. We have to integrate them into our system to establish connection and develop their chemistry with our new players.”[/quote]
He added that complacency should be the last thing on their mind as they brace for a tough match with an equally strong F2 Logistics squad and a veteran Cignal side.
[quote]“Having a strong lineup doesn’t mean that we will just relax and let things fall into places. That’s not our mindset. We will work hard and repay the faith and kindness of the management with a championship.”[/quote]
[quote]“It’s still a long way to go. We haven’t proven anything yet.”[/quote]
A seasoned mentor who is part of the coaching staff when the Blaze Spikers made a stunning sweep of the All-Filipino Conference two years ago, Delos Santos admitted that having a strong lineup builds massive pressure on their shoulders.
But instead of dwelling on it, Delos Santos said they are turning pressure into motivation.
[quote]“Yes, there’s pressure. The pressure is always there. The expectations on us are definitely high.”[/quote]
[quote]“That’s why we have to manage it properly. We have to turn it into motivation that will inspire us and lead us to the ultimate victory.”[/quote]
Aside from pressure, Delos Santos added that he also has to carefully manage the chemistry and jelling of the team, especially since majority of their players came from different backgrounds.
Team captain Molina, for instance, is a San Beda alum while Reyes came from La Salle. Of course, Rondina, Dimaculangan, Tunay, Maizo-Pontillas and Meneses are fro University of Santo Tomas while Pons, Basas, Palma, Duremdes are from Far Eastern University.
Delos Santos said the major challenge is how to make them work as one solid unit.
[quote]“They came from different backgrounds and the stars of their respective schools.”[/quote]
[quote]“Since the challenge for me is how to make them work, I always remind them that we’re no longer in college and we have to be professional. Do not think of individual glory yet; always think of how we can contribute to the team.”[/quote]
He stressed that shuffling his wards would also be a tough task.
[quote]“But I always tell that it’s not the quantity of your playing time that matters – it’s the quality. So they might as well make their presence felt whenever given the chance.”[/quote]