5 storylines in PSL Grand Prix

Tuesday, 17 Oct 2017
Julius Manicad - Chief Correspondent - @JCManicad

A lot of storylines have developed in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix, which erupts this Saturday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Sure, we already know the names of the imports and the key players of all competing teams. We also have an idea that Iriga City and University of Santo Tomas will be joining to increase the level of competition and excitement a notch higher.

But still, there are some storylines worth monitoring. We listed five of those and here are our findings:

Can Jerry Yee pull off a miracle?

Sta. Lucia pulled off a shocker when it allowed a seasoned head coach in Sammy Acaylar to walk away due to his numerous commitments with the men’s national team and University of Perpetual Help Dalta System.

But what’s even more shocking was his replacement – another seasoned coach in Jerry Yee.

Sideliners know that Yee is a no non-sense mentor.

He engineered the resurgence of University of the Philippines, turning it from an ordinary squad into a legit contender in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).

Before that, he turned Hope Christian School into one of the powerhouse squads in the high school ranks, giving him a reputation as a miracle worker.

At Sta. Lucia, he has all the materials to succeed.

MJ Philips and Rebecca Rivera are two of the country’s brightest young stars while Djanel Cheng, Janine Navarro, Danika Gendrauli and Lourdes Clemente have already proven their worth in the league.

They will also have prolific imports in former Canadian national team members Kristen Moncks and Marisa Field and another reinforcement is reportedly on her way to complete the Lady Realtors’ packed roster.

Sta. Lucia also had a week-long training with a noted Japanese mentor, giving it an edge against other teams in terms of preparation.

The only drawback is that Yee had a very limited time – two weeks to be exact – to prepare and instill his system into these Lady Realtors.

Still, the ultimate question hangs over his head: Can Jerry Yee become the miracle worker he used to be and lead Sta. Lucia to an impressive finish?

Can Tina Salak make an impact?

Another shocking development was the return of Tina Salak to active duty.

Salak, the ageless warrior who stands as witness to the ups and downs of Philippine volleyball, made heads turn when her club, Cocolife, announced that she would be dusting off her playing jersey to compete for the Asset Managers in the season-ending conference.

Although doubts were raised about her conditioning following a brief hiatus, Cocolife officials still made the assurance that Salak remains in great shape and couldn’t wait to see action to provide the veteran leadership on the floor.

With Salak back in harness, the Asset Managers turned from a young team searching for identity into a very seasoned, championship-ready ballclub.

Former Philippine Army stars Mary Jean Balse, Joanne Bunag, Nene Bautista and Jane Gonzales were also in the roster as well as head coach Kungfu Reyes.

It remains to be seen whether Salak would still be the same exciting playmaker she used to be, but one thing is sure: Cocolife would definitely be a solid force to be reckoned with.

Is Tamara Kmezic for real?

Nothing much has been said or written about Iriga City’s giant of an import, Tamara Kmezic.

But an online inquiry on the 6-foot-6 Serbian reveals a lot of glowing reviews, quickly turning her from a sleeper into one of the most highly anticipated imports in the league’s season-ending conference.

A veteran campaigner in the European circuit, Kmezic said he is very familiar to other Serbians seeing action like Sara Klisura and Katarina Vukamanovic of Foton as well as head coach Moro Branislav.

In fact, a couple of PSL teams were very much willing to tap her, but she was not yet available at that time.

Her mettle would be greatly tested as majority of the Lady Oragons would be making their PSL debut and are expected to have cold feet and sweaty palms against the big girls of the league.

Whether Kmezic can lead Iriga City to a Cinderella finish would be something to watch out for.

Can F2 Logistics survive with 2 imports?

In a tourney where up to three imports are allowed, it would be a great disadvantage for F2 Logistics to march with only two reinforcements. But the Cargo Movers are not bothered.

Sources said head coach Ramil de Jesus is very confident about their chances as they already have outstanding players in the libero and setter positions to offset the absence of a third import.

Setter Kim Fajardo is a veteran of the FIVB Women’s Club Championship libero in Dawn Macandili was regarded as Asia’s second best libero during the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship.

The Cargo Movers’ waterloo at the wing spiker spot, however, was greatly addressed with the acquisition of American Kennedy Bryan and Venezuelan Maria Jose Perez, making them fit and ready to hunt their first Grand Prix title.

Still, it is worth monitoring if these Cargo Movers can stand toe-to-toe with teams with three imports like Petron, Cignal and two-time champion Foton.

Can Dindin Santiago-Manabat regain form?

Dindin Manabat is regarded as one of the country’s most potent players.

Gifted with height, speed and power, Manabat overpowers her opponent, leading Petron to a pair of titles, including a rare 13-0 sweep of the 2015 All-Filipino Conference. But fate is quite cruel.

After giving birth, Manabat tried to make a return for Foton but she crashed with an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the crucial stretch of the Invitational Conference that sidelined her for the next eight months.

This conference, she will try to make another return.

Foton already listed her on its lineup and is planning to break her gently into the system until she is fit and ready to dominate again.

The only question is: Does she have the willpower to become the same player we used to know?