A merry mix of rising stars and seasoned stalwarts would be at the helm when Smart Prepaid makes its debut in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix starting Feb. 17.
Veteran liberos Sha Torres and Tin Agno of Army will join a handful of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) standouts in bannering the new club to an impressive finish in the country’s most prestigious women’s volleyball league.
Part of the Philippine Army squad that made history when it defeated the junior national team of Thailand for the PSL Invitational title couple of years ago, Torres and Agno will serve as the cornerstones on defense while playmakers Janeth Serafica of Navy and Entezar Bangcola of Letran set up the offense.
Yvette Tongco and Arianna Angustia of EAC, Roselle Urriza of Letran, Hezzymie Acuna of Navy and Jonah Corpuz of NLEX will serve as middle blockers while Angelica Macabalitao of NLEX and Genie Sabas of Army will be at the opposite.
The open spiker position will feature Cherilyn Sindayen and Bien Juanilo of Lyceum as well as Florence Madulid of Navy, who also saw action in the PSL Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup two years ago.
Head coach Ronald Dulay admitted that the new team may not be as star-studded as, say reigning champion F2 Logistics, Petron or Cocolife, but the players would surely get the job done.
“They are hungry and ready to compete against the big girls of the league. We may be a new team, but rest assured that these players will surely play their hearts out.”
Dulay, a seasoned tactician who was part of the coaching staff of Generika-Ayala and the national women’s team last year, will be assisted by Zenaida Ybanez-Chavez with Jude Barrios as trainer, Danica Galvez as physical therapist and Honey Kris Lacerna as team coordinator.
But Smart will not march into battle without enough firepower.
A member of the Cuban national team in Gyselle Silva would be coming over to power the rookie club at the attack zone.
A 6-foot gem of a talent who is best known for her quick hits and deadly jump serves, the 26-year old Silva is very versatile and can easily shift from the opposite to the middle blocker position.
She competed for the Cuban national team in the FIVB Women’s World Championship in Japan in 2010 and the Pan American Games in Mexico in 2011.
She also saw action for various clubs with significant stops in Turkey, China and Azerbaijan, where she led the Rabita Baku to back-to-back titles in the Azerbaijan Superleague.
She will be the second Cuban to play with local players after three-time Olympic gold medalist Regla Bell powered Smart’s sister company – PLDT – in an international meet in 2013.
“More than her highlights, what we took notice of was her credentials. And I can say that it’s quite impressive.”
“She’s a seasoned international player who can help our young team develop the chemistry and identity we want to have.”
Sources said Smart is moving very close to reaching an agreement with another reinforcement from Serbia.
The spiker was highly-recommended by Cocolife coach Moro Branislav and reportedly has the same skill set as Sara Klisura, the holder of the league’s scoring record.
“Despite being formed at the last minute, I am still confident with the kind of team we have assembled.”
“We’re looking forward to a successful debut season in the PSL.”