MANILA, Philippines -- Veteran spiker Dindin Santiago-Manabat has high hopes for Chery Tiggo in the upcoming Invitational Conference of the Premier Volleyball League (PVL), as she is pleased with how they are developing under the guidance of a new head coach.
The Crossovers are now being handled by Clarence Esteban, a former UAAP Most Valuable Player who took over from Aaron Velez at the conclusion of the Open Conference.
"Ngayon, sobrang hungry kami manalo," Santiago-Manabat said recently. "Gusto namin mag-perform ng maganda."
"Hindi namin pine-pressure ang sarili namin na makabalik on top, pero 'yun naman 'yung goal namin, makabalik on top," she added.
The Open Conference was disappointing for Chery Tiggo, as they failed to defend their championship from the previous year. They were soundly beaten by eventual champions Creamline in the quarterfinals, and finished eighth in the nine-team league.
But Santiago-Manabat is optimistic that they can turn things around in the Invitational, even as they will continue to miss the services of her younger sister, middle blocker Jaja Santiago who is currently plying her trade in Japan.
Boosting Santiago-Manabat's confidence is the work that they have done in training with Esteban.
"So far, okay naman 'yung nagiging training namin," she said. "Mas mahirap. More on floor defense [ang focus], kasi 'yun ang kulang namin last conference. And siyempre, service receive, doon talaga kami nag-focus."
"Lahat ng players, malalakas sa attacks," she added. "Blocking and defense, 'yun 'yung focus namin."
The Crossovers will open their campaign on Saturday against the Choco Mucho Flying Titans, who placed fifth in the Open Conference and will feature an intact line-up bannered by Kat Tolentino, Bea de Leon, and Deanna Wong.
"Pag-aaralan namin sila," said Santiago-Manabat. "Pagandahan ng gising."
Chery Tiggo lost to Choco Mucho in five sets when they played in the pool phase of the Open Conference.