Big cats out to guide Mika

Saturday, 14 Jan 2017
Julius Manicad - Chief Correspondent - @JCManicad

Mika Reyes’ transition will be easier than expected as Petron have acquired a group of current and former University of Santo Tomas stars to serve as her reinforcements in the brand-new season of the Philippine Superliga (PSL).

Seasoned setter Rhea Dimaculangan will be leading the pack of Tigresses in the Tri-Activ Spikers’ lair while rising stars Marivic Meneses and Sisi Rondina would jump in when the All-Filipino Conference takes centerstage by the second week of June.

Also joining the fray is Carmela Tunay, who will be making a return to provide the firepower for the PSL Invitational Conference next month.

These Tigresses are expected to be led by Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, the southpaw spiker who spearheaded UST to its last University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) crown in 2010.

Aside from Maizo-Pontillas, Petron also retained former UST coach Shaq Delos Santos as well as his deputy Ian Fernandez, the former national team skipper who is also said to be one of the best trainers in the business.

An unimpeachable source said Petron management is leaving no stone unturned in coming up with a roster powerful enough to regain its elite status.

“Chemistry won’t be a major issue as these players know each other like the back of their hands.”

“The management has been very supportive in providing the vital pieces the coaching staff needs in assembling a winning team. We’re optimistic that this year would be another banner year for Petron.”

Additional force

The source emphasized that Tunay would be competing only in the month-long Invitational Conference before resuming her hosting and modeling career.

Her management agency, Virtual Playground, confirmed that she would formally sign next week.

But Petron won’t really miss her for the All-Filipino Conference as Rondina and Meneses would be coming in the All-Filipino Conference together with Far Eastern University stars Bernadeth Pons and Remy Palma, who already suited up for the Tri-Active Spikers last year.

Kyle Negrito might also come in as Dimaculangan’s understudy following the departure of long-time playmaker Acy Masangkay.

Petron as well as other clubs would formally present its 10-woman roster when the PSL team owners meet on Tuesday.

“Petron is getting scary. They have the firepower, the chemistry and experience to build a dynasty. Kudos to its management for putting these players together.”

Prior to these UST stars, Petron acquired the biggest free agent in the market – Reyes.

The former De La Salle superstar reportedly inked a two-year contract last Wednesday with no less than San Miguel Corp. (SMC) sports director Alfrancis Chua processing her transfer from F2 Logistics.

The source said Reyes is in a perfect position to realize her goals.

“Remy and Ria are elite middle blockers. The (Petron) management was really true to its promise of surrounding Mika with quality pieces to be successful.”

Glorious years

Petron’s buildup reminds sideliners of its success two years ago.

The Tri-Activ Spikers hit the jackpot when they tapped Dindin Manabat as top overall pick in the inaugural PSL Rookie Draft followed by their acquisition of American Alaina Bergsma and Brazilian Erica Adachi as imports to rule the 2014 PSL Grand Prix.

Petron’s luck further extended the following conference when superstars Aby Marano and Rachel Anne Daquis jumped in, prompting it to carve a historic 13-0 sweep of the 2015 PSL All-Filipino Conference.

But smell of champagne was quick to die down.

With Adachi and fellow Brazilian Rupia Inck as imports, Petron surrendered to emerging Foton in the 2015 PSL Grand Prix before Daquis, Marano, Manabat and Fille Cayetano all bolted out the following year.

Petron launched a revamp built around Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina, Jen Reyes and Bang Pineda, but it failed to translate it to another title.

Although it tapped a prolific scorer in Stephanie Niemer and a quality role player in Serena Warner as foreign guest players in the Grand Prix last year, they still failed to overcome the rampaging Tornadoes.

“We see this recruiting coup as Petron’s way of saying that ‘we mean business.’ They took their loss to Foton seriously and they want to bounce back this year.”

“We wish them well.”