Pacesetters stake lead in Superliga

The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 08 2014 08:48 AM | Updated as of Jun 08 2014 04:48 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Early frontrunners stake their unblemished slate in a much-awaited clash of titans in the 2014 PLDT Home-Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference volleyball tournament today at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Solo leader RC Cola-Air Force will test the power of top rookie Dindin Santiago and her Petron side at 3 p.m. while AirAsia battles reigning champion Generika Army at 5 p.m. in a bid to preserve its clean record in the women’s division of this premiere club tournament supported by PLDT Home DSL and backed by Mikasa, Asics, Mueller Tapes, Jinling Sports Equipment, LGR, Bench and Healthway Medical.

Meanwhile, Systema and Via Mare will scramble for the elusive first victory when they collide at 7 p.m. in the men’s division of this competition organized by Sports Core with Solar Sports as the official broadcast partner.

But before that, Mueller Sports Medicine president and founder Brett Mueller will take centerstage as he turns over a medical bag for each competing teams. A short meet and greet will follow at the VIP room of the venue.

After finishing dead last the previous conference, RC Cola-Air Force was the toast of the town for pulling off a pair of straight-set victories and a nail-biting finish over a solid contender in Cagayan Valley, 21-25, 25-14, 19-25, 25-19, 15-12, to formally claim the solo leadership.

Shooting for their fourth win, however, wouldn’t be an easy task for the Raiders.

“Mabigat na kalaban ang Petron,” said RC Cola-Air Force coach Clarence Esteban. “They are tall, long and know how to win. We have to tighten up our defense on the net and make sure that Dindin Santiago will have difficulty launching those attacks. We will be prepared, that’s for sure.”

Esteban’s main point of concern is Santiago, a 6-foot-2 gem of a spiker from National University.

In her debut game against PLDT Home TVolution, Santiago fired a tournament-high 37 points, shattering the 36-point effort of Petron reinforcement Shinaka Tanaka last conference. It was followed by a 31-point performance over Cagayan Valley that easily made her a marked lady for the Raiders.

“Isa sya sa mga pinaghahandaan namin. Dito masusubukan ang depensa ng mga bata,” said Esteban, who was satisfied with the tight defense employed by Maika Ortiz, Judy Caballejo and rookie Jocemer Tapic in their previous win over the Lady Rising Suns.

Also expected to generate attention is the collision between AirAsia and Generika-Army, a battle of strenght and experience.

Featuring the young guns from La Salle, the Flying Spikers soared to a flying start as they opened their bid with a pair of convincing wins over Cagayan Valley and Cignal HD.

But their resolve will be put into a serious test as they battle the Lady Troopers, the two-time champions who are expected to welcome veteran setter Tina Salak back in their bench.

“Sya talaga ang hinihintay namin,” said Generika-Army coach Rico de Guzman. “Mahusay din ang bago namin setter pero iba pa din talaga kapag nadyan si Tina. Mas madali ang execution namin kapag nadyan sya.”

Salak and the Lady Troopers will be going up against Michelle Laborte, Stephanie Mercado, Cha Cruz and Abby Marano, who led La Salle to a string of titles before becoming AirAsia’s top pick in the first-ever PSL draft.