Air Asia eyes No. 2 vs Cignal

The Philippine Star

Posted at May 21 2014 09:32 AM | Updated as of May 21 2014 06:55 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Newcomer Air Asia goes for its second straight win as it collides with title contender Cignal today even as PLDT and Petron clash in a duel of fancied teams in the 2014 PLDT Home DSL-Philippine Super Liga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference volleyball tournament at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Billed as the team to beat with a solid roster, the Flying Spikers battle the HD Spikers at 4 p.m. following the 2 p.m. collision between vastly improved PLDT and Petron, which will be led by 6-foot-2 Dindin Santiago, the top overall pick in the first-ever PSL Rookie Draft, in the women’s division.

Former rally racing champion Vip Isada, meanwhile, makes his much-anticipated coaching debut when his Via Mare tangles with Instituto Estetico Manila at 6 p.m. in the men’s side of the premier club tournament supported by PLDT Home DSL and backed by Mikasa, Asics, Mueller Tapes, Jinling Sports Equipment, LGR, Bench and Healthway Medical.

Fresh from their impressive straight-set win over the Cagayan Valley side, 26-14, 25-19, 27-25, in the opening day of the event organized by Sports Core with Solar Sports as the official broadcaster, Air Asia hopes to sustain its big start on a team built around former members of perennial UAAP champion La Salle Lady Spikers.

“I know that’s our biggest advantage,” said Air Asia coach Ramil de Jesus, who guided the Lady Spikers to a memorable three-peat run in the UAAP.

“We didn’t have to adjust because we’ve been playing together for the past five years. Iba kapag kilala mo ang mga players mo. Alam mo kung ano ang mga executions at mga adjustments na kailangang gawin.”

But the vaunted chemistry of the Flying Spikers will be severely tested by the HD Spikers, who are known not just for their relentless attacks, but also for their discipline on the defensive end as well.

With national team members Michelle Datuin and Honey Royse Tubino leading the assault and Jeck Dionela manning the floor defense, Cignal is expected to use its experience to its advantage and pounce on Air Asia’s lapse on offense while piercing holes on its defensive blanket.

“They are young and fresh from a successful UAAP campaign,” said Cignal coach Sammy Acaylar, the University of Perpetual Help mentor who steered the national women’s team to an eighth place finish in the Asian Women’s Club Championship in Thailand last month.

“But we have the experience to defeat them. We will take advantage of their miscues on offense and make it difficult for them to execute. Kahit maganda ang chemistry nila, siguradong magkakamali din sila. At dun na papasok ang experience namin.”

The Flying Spikers are expected to bank on Stephanie Mercado and skipper Cha Cruz, who combined for 24 points in their debut, while seasoned campaigners Michelle Laborte and Maureen Penetrante-Ouano provide the much-needed offensive muscle in the frontcourt.