After falling short last conference, RC Cola-Army will be marching with a pair of explosive reinforcements when it competes in the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix on Oct. 8.
The Lady Troopers tapped open spiker Kierra Holst and middle blocker Hailie Ripley to join wing spikers Jovelyn Gonzaga, Honey Royse Tubino and Rachel Anne Daquis in the season-ending conference where the winner gets a chance to represent the country in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship next year.
Winners of the league’s first three crowns, RC Cola-Army appeared headed for another strong finish in the All-Filipino Conference last August, but a series of misfortune turned that dream into a nightmare.
For one, their main gunner in Daquis suffered a broken foot, leaving the Lady Troopers groping for offensive form. Aside from her, Jessey de Leon, Joanne Bunag and Nene Bautista all crashed with various injuries, prompting the Lady Troopers to settle for the third place.
It was their first setback in the PSL.
But it motivated them to do well.
RC Cola-Army coach Kungfu Reyes confirmed that Gonzaga, Tubino, Christine Agno and other military athletes would get to suit up for the Grand Prix after their candidate soldier training course, a grueling military program that would take six to eight months, was moved to a latter date.
In fact, the core of the team is in very good condition as it competes in the annual Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Olympics.
An American deuce
But what excites Reyes even more is the addition of Holst and Ripley.
A 6-foot-4 gem of a scorer from University of Oklahoma, Holst was suited up for the United States juniors national team in the FIVB Women’s Juniors World Championship in 2013. Prior to that, she campaigned for the Americans in the FIVB Girls’ Youth World Championship in 2011.
She was also selected as part of the All-Big 12 Freshman team in 2012 and was invited in the Nike Invitational and Northern Colorado Classic All-Tournament Teams at the University of Oklahoma.
[quote]She is a gifted athlete and an explosive scorer.
After seeing how we crumbled after missing Rachel in the crucial stretch of All-Filipino, I realized that we need a high-scoring import in our roster. All teams are getting an upgrade offensively. We also have to do our part and recruit the best talent available.[/quote]
Holst will be partnered with Ripley, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker from Oakland University.
Reyes said if Holst’ order of battle is to help Daquis and Tubino carry the scoring load, Ripley will provide steady presence at the net to fill the void left by Mary Jean Balse.
[quote]If you can see, we had a huge hole at the middle last conference.
Well, this is an attempt to address that problem. I am confident that both of them will live to our expectations.[/quote]