Tornadoes ready to wreak havoc

Tuesday, 09 Aug 2016
Julius Manicad - Chief Correspondent - @JCManicad
Jaja Santiaga brings invaluable height and athleticism to Foton Tornadoes

After delivering F2 Logistics’ first loss of the season, Foton is said to be the overwhelming choice to win the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference best-of-three finals duel, which starts this Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.

PSL coaches were in unison in picking the Tornadoes as an overwhelming choice for having the height, the firepower and the experience to dominate the Cargo Movers in what is boiling down to be the tightest, fiercest finals duel in the young history of the country’s most prestigious women’s volleyball league.

RC Cola-Army coach Kungfu Reyes said height would be a major factor as Foton parades a very tall frontline of Jaja Santiago, Angeli Araneta and Maika Ortiz to man the net against F2 Logistics’ army of attackers led by Ara Galang, Cha Cruz and Paneng Mercado.

Aside from that, Foton also has the firepower as rookies Cherry Rondina and EJ Laure as well as veteran Patty Jane Orendain are slowly blending with seasoned playmaker Rhea Dimaculangan at the attack zone.

In fact, after dropping a straight-set loss to the Cargo Movers in the first round, the Tornadoes stormed back and punished their foes with an emphatic 19-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-19 victory to hand F2 Logistics its first setback of the season.

In that match, Santiago had 13 kills and six blocks to finish with 19 points while Araneta and Rondina had 11 markers apiece, prompting sideliners to believe that the Tornadoes are blossoming into a solid force to be reckoned with.

It is the second straight finals appearance of Foton after winning the Grand Prix title last year – the victory that gave the right to represent the country in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship next month.

Foton is peaking at the right time which makes it more dangerous.

I go for Foton here. They have the power, the experience and the height to match or even outduel F2 Logistics. Yes, the core of F2 Logistics is fresh from winning the UAAP title, but you can also deny the fact that Foton also came from a championship after winning the Grand Prix crown last year.

Reyes noted that the battle at the middle could decide the outcome of the series.

You have a 6-foot-5 Jaja Santiago and a veteran Maika Ortiz for Foton while F2 Logistics has Aby Marano, Majoy Baron and Mika Reyes. But I heard Mika is not in perfect shape after sustaining a hamstring injury. In their last game, her movements were very limited.

That makes the ball bounce to Foton’s favor.

Another seasoned coach in George Pascua said although the crowd is obviously in F2 Logistics’ favor, it could also be its biggest disadvantage once pressure kicks in.

Pascua, who guided Petron to a historic 13-0 sweep of the All-Filipino Cup last year, also said the Cargo Movers have to win Game 1to get rid of the pressure and go for the kill either in Game 2 or Game 3. Although Ramil de Jesus is a brilliant strategist, his young team could get pressured once the title is on the line.

I am also for Foton. First, because they are peaking and, second, because they have high morale.

Although F2 Logistics is the darling of the crowd, it has to win Game 1 to avoid the pressure. Once it lost Game 1, the players might feel the pressure of competing against an elite team like Foton.

Volleyball legends Zenaida Chavez and Rosemarie Prochina also agreed with Reyes and Pascua’s observation.

Chavez, the star spiker when the Philippine Team won the gold medal in the Singapore Southeast Asian Games in 1993, said Foton obviously has a huge advantage for having a skyscraper at the net in Santiago and another brilliant blocker in Ortiz.

You can’t teach height.

And once the 6-foot-5 Jaja rotates, you have a Maika Ortiz and (Angeli) Araneta to challenge you. I think Foton is unbeatable. They don’t have a single hole in their rotation and everybody is capable of delivering down to the last person on the bench.

Prochina, for her part, said the Cargo Movers have to come up with a perfect game to overcome the surging Tornadoes.

F2 Logistics has to find a way to match the firepower of Rondina and Laure and stop the giants of Foton.

However, F2 Logistics has the edge in personnel. But this is a team game so whoever jells well as a team will win the series. I still go for Foton.

Prochina used to be the head coach of F2 Logistics before moving on as chief deputy at Generika. Chavez, for her part, used to be Prochina’s chief assistant at F2 Logistics before assuming the coaching chore at Standard Insurance-Navy.

The lone coach who vouched for F2 Logistics was Francis Vicente of Generika.

Vicente, a seasoned national team coach, said the battle would all boil down into who is the better playmaker between Kim Fajardo of F2 Logistics and Rhea Dimaculangan of Foton.

It will all depend on the ability of the setter, on how they will perform.

This is going to be an exciting series. It’s really hard to pick. Though I’m not underestimating Foton, I would go for F2 Logistics for having the chemistry and the experience after winning that UAAP crown.

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