The loss was a major blow to Cignal.
The HD Spikers are now pressured to win their last two games of the preliminaries against reigning champion Foton and RC Cola-Army if they want to avert a possible head-on collision with mighty F2 Logistics in the playoffs.
Winning over Foton is nearly impossible as the Tornadoes have a pair of veteran imports in Ariel Usher and Lindsay Stalzer as well as Jaja Santiago, who formally returned from a 12-day training in Japan. Same goes with the Lady Troopers, who are now reaching their peak form after crushing them in straight sets in an out-of-town game last Tuesday.
With that, the HD Spikers have to pull off a miracle to keep their heads above water. But with the way things are going, their climb to the top would surely be a grueling journey for the HD Spikers.
Hopes were high when Cignal kicked off the tournament.
Cignal head coach Sammy Acaylar was the busiest person in the off-season as he acquired Janine Marciano from BaliPure and Paneng Mercado from F2 Logistics. He also brought in Mylene Paat and Lourdes Patilano as well as a Filipino-American setter in Shawna-Lei Santos.
But his biggest recruit was the Most Valuable Player in the league’s inaugural season – Venus Bernal.
But all hopes started to fizzle out when Cignal lost one by one.
Their best player in Puerto Rican import Lynda Morales crashed with a season-ending foot injury while Santos suffered a twisted ankle after slipping in the bathroom of the Malolos Sports and Convention Center. They lost all but one game – a five-set escape of erstwhile winless Generika – and were greatly reduced from the league’s strongest team into cellar-dwellers.
But Acaylar is taking everything positively, pointing at the league’s gruelling schedule as the main reason of their downfall.
He said the absence of Morales is such a big blow to their campaign.
Acaylar noted that to solve their problem, he has to tap another grizzled veteran who can help establish the connection between the setter and the spikers.
He needs somebody who can stabilize their shaky offense since Santos has yet to fully establish the connection with Filipino spikers after spending her collegiate career competing for St. John’s University in Division I of the USA NCAA.
That person is Chie Saet – a proven playmaker who won a handful of accolades for La Salle in the UAAP.
Sources said Saet was already being eyed by Acaylar since the start of the Grand Prix. But her contract with a club team in the other league made it difficult for her to transfer.
Fortunately, the rival league already wrapped up its season, making it possible for Saet to united with Acaylar.
Despite the woes, despite the heartbreaks, Acaylar is not running out of hope.
Acaylar finally flashed a dry, sarcastic grin.
He knows it’s going to be an uphill climb. But he will do everything to make it on top.