Jheck vows to stay with Cignal

Cignal would be fighting for dear life when it clashes with powerhouse F2 Logistics in the playoffs of the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix on Sunday at the Philsports Arena.

All bets are off for the HD Spikers.

After starting the season full of promise with the recruitment of Filipino-American Shawna-Lei Santos, Mylene Paat, Janine Marciano and Paneng Mercado as well as the reactivation of former Most Valuable Player Venus Bernal, the HD Spikers suffered a grand collapse as import Lynda Morales crashed with an injury.

With Morales in walking boot, the HD Spikers did not only lose a prized middle blocker and a leader, it also threw their playbook out of the window as they are forced to start from scratch with the Puerto Rican Olympian out of the equation.

With that, Cignal lost all – but one game – in the double-round preliminaries.

And now, it is teetering on the brink of bowing out of title derby as the Cargo Movers are tipped to come up with a dominant performance, especially with Hayley Spelman, Sydney Kemper, Kim Fajardo, Mika Reyes, Ara Galang and Aby Marano all in great shape.

But there is one player who refuses to go down without a fight. She will continue to man the backline for the HD Spikers no matter what, no matter how hard it could be.

Glory years

Among Cignal mainstays like Micmic Laborte, Mumay Vivas and Len Cortel, only Jheck Dionela has been with Cignal long enough to experience both its glory years and recent struggles.

She competed for Sammy Acaylar in University of Perpetual Help before joining the seasoned maestro in the 2013 Grand Prix to connive with Michelle Datuin, Aby Praca, Honey Royse Tubino, Danika Gendrauli and Bernal. The group pulled off the impossible as it shocked heavily favored PLDT in the semifinals before bowing to TMS-Army in the finals to settle for a runner-up finish.

But it appeared to be the last kick of the HD Spikers.

Datuin, Praca, Tubino and Gendrauli all left while Bernal went to corporate world. Former University of Santo Tomas star Carmela Tunay as well as former College of Saint Benilde stars Djanel Cheng, Janine Navarro and Jeanette Panaga were tapped to replace them.

But they, too, also left as the HD Spikers launched a major revamp.

Cheng and Navarro bolted for Cignal while Panaga returned to the Lady Blazers. For her part, Tunay quit volleyball to concentrate on her hosting career.

Still, Dionela opted to remain with the team.

I want to win a title with Cignal, with coach Sammy and the management. That’s the reason why I’m staying with them. I want to help them bring back their glory years.

Not yet out

Dionela said despite finishing the preliminaries with a 1-9 mark, they still have a chance to win the title if they would pull off an earth-shaking upset of F2 Logistics before pulling the rug from under reigning champion Foton.

It may look difficult, but if they will work hard and stay together as one solid unit, nothing is impossible. They may be down, but they’re definitely not yet out.

I know we have our individual strength. We just need to use it as a team so we can keep our chances of winning the title.

She added that being the underdogs is nothing new. In fact, with veterans like Laborte, Bernal, Chie Saet and Vivas, winning over a young squad like F2 Logistics is not impossible.

Maybe we could still a win from our opponent. We’ve been in this kind of situation before. The playoffs is anybody’s ballgame now so we may never know.

Dionela flashed a sweet smile. She’s obviously keeping the faith. She knows good things happen to those who are patient.