MANILA, Philippines – Defending champion F2 Logistics and Petron start their road back to the finals when they clash with separate foes in the best-of-three semifinal series of the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix on Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Cargo Movers battle Foton at 7 p.m., while the Blaze Spikers collide with Cocolife at 4:15 p.m.
F2 Logistics and Petron breezed through the classification phase, finishing with identical 9-1 win-loss records before dismissing their respective opponents – Smart and Generika-Ayala – in the quarterfinals.
However, the semifinals figure to be a tougher affair for the top seeds.
F2 Logistics is set to battle a Foton team that will welcome back former MVP Jaja Santiago, fresh from leading National University to the Final 4 of the UAAP Season 80 women's volleyball tournament.
The Tornadoes have also added the University of the Philippines pair of Isa Molde and Diana "Tots" Carlos, while imports Elizabeth Wendel and Channon Thompson have developed their chemistry with the local Foton stars.
Foton coach Rommel Abella said they are prepared to expose the weaknesses of the Cargo Movers in a bid to dethrone the powerhouse team in the Grand Prix.
"We're facing a well-oiled machine," admitted Abella, noting that they have to neutralize imports Maria Jose Perez and Kennedy Bryan, while also dealing with local mainstays Abigail Maraño, Kim Fajardo, and skipper Cha Cruz.
"Still, F2 Logistics has some lapses," he added. "We need to pounce on those lapses and show that we want it more than them. We're ready to triple our effort if we have to. The important thing is to show that we are hungrier and we want it more than them."
Meanwhile, Petron has gambled in calling in seasoned international campaigner Katherine Bell to replace Hillary Hurley, who is nursing a recurring ankle injury.
A 6-foot-1 former University of Texas standout, Bell is known for her versatility as she can play the open, opposite and middle blocker roles. She saw action in Puerto Rico, South Korea and Turkey before flying in last week to power the Blaze Spikers in their championship quest.
"She is a hardworking player who can play multiple positions," said Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos, who will bank on veteran Lindsay Stalzer, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina and Mika Reyes for additional firepower.
"She"s a good communicator who loves to motivate her teammates. I hope she can help us reach our ultimate goal, which is to win the title."
Cocolife, for its part, will bank on FIVB World Grand Prix veteran Marta Drpa, who has reinvigorated their campaign and helped them advance to the semifinals.
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