Every year, the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix gives its local fans a special treat by gathering a batch of foreign imports who will serve as key reinforcements for club teams.
True enough, the competition could not get exciting without these imports putting up a great show by displaying their world-class volleyball skills in front of rabid Filipino fans.
In the past four years, the prestigious semi-pro league has brought a pool of talented imports – from powerful hitters to prolific playmakers and spunky floor defenders- which gave Filipino fans a taste of international brand of volleyball, something we only witness in tournaments such as World Championship, FIVB Grand Prix, and the Olympics.
This year, another batch of imports, including newcomers Hillary Hurley, Beth Carey, Sara Klisura, Kennedy Bryan, and Katarina Pilepic, will fight tooth and nail in a bid to cap the much coveted PSL Grand Prix crown and a chance to represent the country in the Asian Women’s Club Volleyball Championship.
Before the PSL Grand Prix kicks off this Saturday, let us look back at the five best imports who made big waves in the tournament’s past editions.
5. Kristy Jaeckel
American power hitter Kristy Jaeckel was a gem of a find for Mane N’ Tail in the 2014 Grand Prix.
Known for being a monster scorer, the former University of Florida standout wowed the Filipino fans with her scoring prowess as she delivered the highest offensive output in the tournament with 40 points in their victory against Foton Tornadoes.
Up to now, Jaeckel’s stunning record has yet to be erased by any of her counterparts.
She debuted in the league with a 31-point performance against Cignal HD spikers and her right arm strength was instantly recognized by volleyball enthusiasts as she attacked with equally tremendous power whether in the front line or back line.
‘Jae’KILL,’ as what her fans fondly called her, followed her impressive debut with another sizzling performance, torching 37 markers versus Petron.
4. Bojana Todorovic
Dubbed as the best all-around player to play in the league, the Serbian reinforcement Bojana Todorovic made a huge statement with her rock-solid floor coverage and blistering offense when she donned the gold and red jersey for Philips Gold in the 2015 edition.
Aside from being a talented two-way player, the former libero of the University of California in Los Angeles is also known for her intense passion for the game. She was always hungry to win and her competitive nature brought her squad in the top seed after the preliminaries, where she averaged 21.9 points per game, backed up with 2 digs and 2 excellent receptions per frame.
Aside from Michele Gumabao, she was also the source of energy for the Lady Slammers, celebrating wildly after making a point.
3. Stephanie Niemer
One of the head turners of last year’s Grand Prix was Petron’s import Stephanie Niemer, who served as the main catalyst of the Lady Blaze Spikers’ bridesmaid finish in the tournament.
Do not be deceived by her sweet and charming look as she is an ultimate beast inside the court, firing in all aspects of the game from blocking, spiking, passing and digging.
With her deadly jump serve, she holds the league record for the most number of aces in a single game with nine in their hard-earned victory over F2 Logistics.
She pulled off a pair of a monstrous 30-point performance in a hotly-contested finals series, but her individual firepower was not enough to knock off the crown from the defending champs.
However, Niemer still remains as one of the best imports to ever play in PSL Grand Prix. It is very rare to see such import who possesses the leadership ability of Erica Adachi, the do-it-all performance of Todorovic, and the arm strength of Jaeckel.
2. Alaina Bergsma
Putting the Most Valuable Player of the 2014 edition in the list is a no brainer.
The beauty queen slash volleyball star from Oregon became the golden standard of excellence in the league when she suited up for Petron three years ago.
She averaged 25 points per match and held a personal best of 34 points registered in a blockbuster match against Mane N’ Tail.
Her former coach George Pascua sang nothing but praises on this all-around American hitter, who can deliver the goods both in offense and defense. She did not just serve as the main offensive option for the Lady Blaze Spikers but also as the mentor for the locals, which translated into a championship title for the squad.
Still not convinced of her volleyball prowess? Interestingly, the former Petron reinforcement now holds the world record for most number of points produced in a match, when she dropped 55 markers in the Korean V-league last March.
1. Lindsay Stalzer
Lindsay Stalzer is the only import who has a two championship titles and an MVP award under her belt, making her one of the most celebrated and highly-touted reinforcement in this semi-pro league.
The product of Bradley University initially played for CIgnal HD Spikers in 2014, where they finished fourth, but she came back the following year stronger and smarter when she spearheaded a remarkable Cinderella run donning the blue and white sleeves for the Tornadoes.
Coming into the semifinals and finals as the underdogs, the eventual MVP of the 2015 edition, who averaged 20 points per game, displayed her volleyball brilliance to pulled off a pair of upset against league-leaders Philips Gold and Petron, on rompt to winning the title.
She, then, returned for Foton and teamed up with Ariel Usher to spoil Petron’s bid in dethroning the Tornadoes.
For this year, in an awkward twist of fate, Stalzer will suit up for last year’s challenger Petron and another title will cement her legacy as the best import to ever play in Philippine Superliga.