The Philippine Superliga Grand Prix 2017 finally arrived last Saturday, with four club teams taking the spotlight and showing us a glimpse of the highs and lows of what they can offer to the season-ending conference of the league.
Petron Blaze Spikers roared early and won their opening assignment in dominating fashion. Meanwhile the defending champions, Foton Tornadoes, displayed their championship heart to escape with a four-set victory.
All in all, the PSL Grand Prix opening day was filled with excitement and flashes of brilliance. It kicked off in a way we expected – with a satisfying start.
Here are four major takeaways from the rousing opening matches of the PSL Grand Prix:
1. Petron is deadly and dangerous
After all the hype and excitement for this star-studded club team, Petron finally displayed its “on-paper” firepower to an actual game.
The Blaze Spikers played like a well-oiled machine. Their reinforcements, Lindsay Stalzer and Hillary Hurley, looked like they have been playing for Petron for a long time as they easily and quickly adjusted to Shaq Delos Santos’ system. As expected, they took charge of the team’s offense and led the scoring parade, recording a team high 14 and 18 points, respectively.
The locals, for their part, provided the much-needed support for their explosive imports. Dimaculangan orchestrated a beautiful offensive pattern while Mika Reyes, Remy Palma, and Ria Meneses were able to control the middle position. Ces Molina was attacking faster than before and has added strength to her spikes.
Petron has sent one clear message to the rest of the team in the league: Winter is coming!
Best Player: Hillary Hurley
2. Who will set for Generika?
Generika Ayala Lifesavers marched into the tournament with a complete roster, much to the delight of head coach Francis Vicente, who has high hopes of making the semifinals.
But their first match turned out to be a disaster as they succumbed to powerhouse Petron in straight sets.
Generika may have a complete line up but they have yet to find their identity. One of the main reasons behind this was Lifesavers had a hard time in finding the right setter to orchestrate the play.
Vicente pulled off a shocker when he used Angelica Legacion in the starting six. The former Arellano University playmaker had a decent start but Vicente had to sit her out and send Penina Snuka in to maximize the Croatian hammer Katarina Pilepic.
However, sending Snuka in resulted in removing fellow import Ramdin from the equation, as PSL rules dicatate that three imports cannot play at the same time.
The question is – would Generika opt for two imports with a less experienced setter, not to take anything away from Legacion, or a single import with a more experienced setter in Snuka?
Not to mention that there is another setter on the sidelines in Mary Grace Masangcay!
Best Player: Kath Arado
3. Height is might for Foton
Foton Tornadoes delivered a total team performance in its victory over Cignal HD Spikers. But coach Moro Branislav was not convinced nor satisfied. He wants perfection. He wants total dominance from this team who has one big advantage over other teams in the league – height.
The Tornadoes are really scary. The defending champions parades four six-foot plus in their roster in Sara Klisura, Dragana Perunicic, and sisters Jaja & Dindin, who can spike above the block of any teams in the league. Ivy Perez is a tall setter and their libero, Katarina Vukomanovic stands at 5 feet and 9 inches.
In their first match, the defending champions showed that height is might after unloading 51 total team attacks, compared to just 35 of Cignal, and 14 total team blocks, three points shy from matching their opponent’s output of 17 blocks.
Despite the disapproval from Moro, these numbers are still pretty huge. And given their height, the Tornadoes can duplicate or even surpass this superb performance in their upcoming matches.
Best Player: Sara Klisura
4. Cignal has to pass the ball
With the acquisition of a pair of middle blockers in Alexis Matthews and Beth Carey, dealing with service receptions woes will be costly. Last Saturday, it was really evident. It was a sorry loss for the HD Spikers in their opening match as their reception and floor defense flirted with disaster.
Cignal could not get their offense going in the first two sets as they struggled to pass the ball well. Chie Saet ran all over the court chasing poor first balls and had to settle for broken plays, which were easily countered by Foton.
The HD Spikers have to recognize the importance of first ball in order to utilize and maximize Carey and Matthews, who can easily score points if given decent sets. If not, then Cignal may suffer the same fate in future games.
Best Player: Beth Carey