SLR builds title foundation

Wednesday, 20 Sep 2017
Julius Manicad - Chief Correspondent - @JCManicad

While the rest of the field is eyeing the crown, Sta. Lucia Realty sets a humble of goal of cracking into the semifinals when the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix fires off on Oct. 21.

The Lady Realtors vowed to reach their target as they acquired two of Canada’s finest defenders in middle blocker Marisa Field and libero Kristen Moncks as well as a power-hitting member of the Bulgarian national team in open spiker Slavina Koleva.

The 30-year old Field could be Sta. Lucia’s volleyball Messiah.

She has a thick resume in the international play after seeing action in topnotch club tourneys in Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Sweden and Greece.

Her previous club — Panathinaikos AO — is a Greek powerhouse where only the best and the brightest international players were being recruited.

The most impressive feather on her cap, however, is her international campaign for the Canadian national team, which is at no. 19 in the latest FIVB ranking.

Field played a major role in the Canadians’ stellar run at the FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Grand Prix in 2010, 2014 and 2016, making her one of the regular fixtures in the tough North, Central America and Carribean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA) together with standouts from United States, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Dominican Republic.

Two additional stars

Also expected to steal the thunder is Moncks, who was Field’s teammate in the Canadian side in the World Grand Prix in 2016.

Although her international credentials may not be as thick as that of Field, the 25-year old Monck is still expected to hold her ground against other prominent backline defenders like Mami Miyashita of Cignal, Yuri Fukuda of Petron and national team members Denden Lazaro of Cocolife and Dawn Macandili of F2 Logistics.

But it would be Koleva who would provide the firepower for Sta. Lucia head coach Sammy Acaylar.

A six-foot spiker from Sofia, the 30-year old Koleva is also a seasoned international campaigner after bidding in the French, Turkish and Slovenian leagues.

Her last stint was for Calcit Volleyball club in Slovenia where she gained the attention of foreign coaches and scouts.

“Our foreign players definitely have what it takes to bring us to the semifinals. From there, anything can happen. We’ll just take it one step at a time.”

“Based on their scouting reports, they are tall, athletic and can contend with imports from other teams. They would make us unpredictable because they bring depth and power at the middle, wing and backline positions.”

Acaylar revealed that their original choice, former University of San Diego star Liza Kramer, crashed with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury just before her contract with her club expires on Sept. 30.

Another choice in Iranian national team star Maedeh Borhani also failed to make it for some reason.

“It’s a blessing in disguise.”

“We may have failed to get our original choices, but the replacements are still very competitive. We’re looking forward to have them on our team.”

The three foreign players would be arriving on Oct. 4.

Solid team

One of the league’s youngest teams, the Lady Realtors are looking for a breakthrough stint after finishing sixth in their debut in the All-Filipino Conference.

Acaylar said cracking into the semifinals is very doable as his star players in Filipino-American MJ Philips, Filipino-Canadian setter Rebecca Rivera, Djanel Cheng, Janine Navarro, Danika Gendrauli and Lourdes Clemente are slowly jelling into one solid unit.

The seasoned mentor said his players have a very good relationship off the court and continue to bond even in the off-season.

“Their jelling and bonding never stops. They continue to hang out and stay together even if the league is on a break. I’m glad that they are good friends on and off the court.”

Acaylar said they are all very excited for the Grand Prix, where sideliners are counting on two-time champion Foton, Petron, Cignal and F2 Logistics to hog the limelight.

The Lady Realtors should not be overlooked as they are likely to parade a solid starting unit of 6-foot-2 Clemente and Field at the middle, Koleva and Philips at the wings, Navarro at opposite, Rivera as setter and Monck as libero.

“I think we’ll be fine. We addressed what the team needs and we are ready to take on the strong teams of the league. This is going to be a very exciting tournament.”