Iriga City coasted to an easy victory over Victoria Sports-UST, 25-19, 25-21-25, 20 in the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix Thursday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Serbian import Tamara Kmezic was at her best, finishing with 17 kills, two aces and a block while Janeca Lana delivered nine markers for the Lady Oragons, who barged back into the win column after a month of frustrations.
But there was one player the Lady Oragons terribly miss – Gretchel Soltones.
A seasoned spikers and former national team member, Soltones was included in the final roster and suited up in Iriga City’s opening-day victory over Sta. Lucia Realty.
Unfortunately, she was slapped with a one-year suspension after seeing action in an exhibition match that was not sanctioned by the league.
With Soltones out, the Lady Oragons suffered a string of losses to reigning champion Foton, Generika-Ayala, Cignal and Cocolife.
Iriga City coach Parley Tupas admitted that those losses could be attributed to their lack of knockout punch.
“We lost our killer instinct. We’re folding up at endgame.”
“With Grethcel out, we’re missing 12 points. Where would we get that? Aside from that, we also lost her presence down the stretch. She is the most veteran on our team. She plays a crucial role when the game is on the line.”
He added that he’s proud of his players because they are fighting until the very end.
“They may be young and inexperienced, but they are giving other teams a good fight. They never gave up. I’m really proud of my team.”
‘It is what it is’
Tupas, however, said they have moved on from that sorry episode.
He said the team is in high spirit and they are now looking forward to their first quarterfinal appearance where they would probably meet heavyweights Foton or Petron.
“We respect the PSL’s one-league policy. It is already there even before we came here. It is what it is.”
“That’s why we’re just moving on from that issue. Our goal now is to come up with a strong finish and a good performance in the quarterfinals. Our hopes are high.”
When asked if Soltones is still welcome to join them once the ban has been lifted next year, Tupas’ face lit up.
“Our doors will always be open. If there will be a chance to tap her next year, we would definitely do it. She will always be welcome to join us.”