MANILA, Philippines – Rivals Petron and Foton clash for all the marbles once more when the best-of-three Finals of the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix opens on Thursday at the Arena in San Juan.
Game time is at 7 p.m. with the Tri-Activ Spikers and the defending champion Tornadoes both looking to draw first blood in the series.
Prior to that, F2 Logistics and RC Cola-Army face off at 5 p.m. to contest the bronze medal.
Foton memorably stunned Petron in an emotional finals series last season, and the Tornadoes have cemented their status as a powerhouse since then.
They breezed through the Grand Prix preliminaries, tallying a 9-1 record, then pulled off a heart-stopping 23-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-15, 15-7 come-from-behind win over Army in the semifinals last weekend.
The Tornadoes have maintained their mastery of the Tri-Activ Spikers in the prelims as well, having beaten Petron twice already to earn a slight advantage in the Finals.
"We'd like to maintain just a little bit of groundedness, (be) confident but not cocky," said Foton import Lindsay Stalzer.
"Playing Petron this year is very different than last year. They have a stronger team now than last year, (but) I'm pretty confident we know how to beat them," she added.
"We beat them twice already, so we're going to use it to our advantage."
Petron's high-scoring import Stephanie Niemer acknowledged that they are the underdogs in the Finals but warned the Tornadoes not to take them lightly.
"I think we are the underdogs because we already lost twice," said Niemer, who scored 38 points in their first game against Foton. "However, it's hard to beat a team three times, so it will work to our advantage."
"From the way I perceive it, Foton right now is extremely confident and somewhat arrogant playing us," she added.
"I'm hoping it will come back and bite them, because I think they are kind of overlooking us right now."
The Tri-Activ Spikers are looking to formulate a game plan that will neutralize 6-foot-5 Jaja Santiago and 6-foot-2 Dindin Santiago at the net, and in this regard Niemer is sure that she will get ample support from her crew of Serena Warner, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina, and defensive specialists Jen Reyes and Bang Pineda.
"I think our edge over Foton is that we have a lot of heart," said Niemer. "We're not the tallest team, and I didn't say that we're the most talented."
"But I would like to think that we're the most driven, and we have bigger hearts, and I think that's going to carry us through."
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