MANILA, Philippines – Two of the best club teams in the country, F2 Logistics and Petron, add another chapter to their thrilling rivalry when they kick off the finals of the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix on Tuesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Action starts at 7 p.m., with the Cargo Movers and the Blaze Spikers looking to take Game 1 and thus claim the early lead in the best-of-3 series.
Foton and Cocolife will open the day's slate of games at 4:15 p.m., when they battle for the bronze medal.
After figuring in a heated finals showdown last year, both F2 Logistics and Petron trekked identical trails to the finals. Both finished the elimination round with identical 9-1 win-loss records, then booked impressive wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals to set up a rematch.
For F2 Logistics head coach Arnold Laniog, nothing short of a second straight Grand Prix title will suffice.
"The mindset of the players is to defend the title," said Laniog, adding that the system of De La Salle University head coach Ramil de Jesus will remain as their biggest weapon against a very disciplined team like Petron.
"I'm telling the players that they are the reigning champions and everybody is looking to beat them. So they have to show up prepared and ready to win because their pride as Grand Prix champions is at stake," he added.
On the other hand, Petron coach Shaq delos Santos is using their heartbreaking loss to F2 Logistics last year as the primary motivation for the Blaze Spikers.
Delos Santos clarifies that the pain of defeat is no longer there, but they are still determined to come up with a dominant win so as to end their drought in the Grand Prix finals.
"Our loss last year is no longer painful. We've already accepted it and moved on," said Delos Santos, whose team has yet to taste a Grand Prix title since American Alaina Bergsma and Brazilian Erica Adachi served as their reinforcements in 2014.
"We know that the loss was there to help us improve and hungry to win. It was a hard lesson we have to swallow. So we have to do our best to correct our previous mistake and use that setback as a motivation to finally win the (Grand Prix) title."
Delos Santos said they will have very good chances once imports Katherine Bell, Lindsay Stalzer, Frances Molina, Mika Reyes and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas started to play like a well-oiled machine at the attack zone while deflecting the strong services and passing game of the Cargo Movers.
"Winning Game 1 wouldn’t be easy," he said.
"All of them are strong servers and good receivers. Their libero, Minami Yoshioka, is also very good. We have to be consistent in targeting them from the service box to throw them our of their comfort zone. It’s going to be an interesting match."
Meanwhile, the league invited a pair of international referees from Thailand to officiate the finals series.
Nathanon Sowapark and Wichai Wannatawee arrived Sunday night through the joint effort of Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. and Thailand Volleyball Association to make sure that that the officiating in the finals series will be above par.
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