MANILA, Philippines – Volleyball action in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) intensifies next week when the top four teams battle for a chance at the crown in the best-of-three semifinals of the PSL Grand Prix.
Defending champion F2 Logistics clashes with Foton, while Petron battles Cocolife in a double-header on Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Cargo Movers and the Blaze Spikers are marching into their respective series as slight favorites against their opponents.
After clashing in a memorable finals showdown last year, both F2 Logistics and Petron finished the classification round with identical 9-1 win-loss records, making them the teams to beat in the semifinals.
F2 Logistics dominated Smart in the quarterfinals, while Petron clobbered Generika-Ayala to march into the semifinals brimming with confidence.
However, the Final 4 figure to be an entirely different situation.
Foton is expected to give F2 Logistics a tough time, as the Tornadoes are parading a pair of promising collegiate players in Diana "Tots" Carlos and Isa Molde of University of the Philippines, while new import, Channon Thompson, is starting to develop chemistry with their mainstays.
The Tornadoes may even have former MVP Jaja Santiago in the fold, pending the result of the UAAP Final 4 battle between National University (NU) and De La Salle University.
"Although we want (NU) to make it all the way to the UAAP finals, having Jaja back in the team will still be a big boost to us," said Foton head coach Rommel Abella following their straight-sets win over Sta. Lucia in the quarterfinals.
Abella, however, warned that F2 Logistics is a strong team, and their semifinals showdown will be decided by desire and character.
"We should want it more than them," said Abella. "F2 Logistics is very strong and disciplined team. But of course, it still has some lapses. And we should be ready to pounce on those lapses."
Cocolife, for its part, is eyeing a maiden finals appearance in the PSL.
Head coach Moro Branislav said new import Marta Drpa is already getting familiar to the Filipino brand of game and could be a big help to key players like Royse Tubino, Tina Salak, Denden Lazaro and fellow Serbian Sara Klisura on both ends of the floor.
In their quarterfinal game against Cignal, Drpa displayed her versatility in scoring 19 points – 15 on kills – to go with 11 digs and four blocks.
"She is coming along very well," Branislav said of Drpa. "I'm sure she will be ready for the semifinals against Petron."
However, the Serbian coach also acknowledged that the Blaze Spikers have been "the best team this season."
"But it still lost a match," he added. "It still has some flaws. We have to put our best foot forward to expose those flaws and convert it to a victory in the semifinals."
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