The country’s best local players level up their games when the 2017 Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference takes centerstage Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.
Rookie squad Cherrylume gets its baptism of fire against Foton at 5 p.m. while Generika-Ayala tests the power of a souped-up Cocolife squad in the 7 p.m. main encounter of this prestigious club tourney bankrolled by Rebisco, Belo, Asics, Senoh, Mueller and Grand Sport with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
Although the league’s opening ceremonies are set this Saturday also at the same venue, a capacity crowd is expected to show up as half of the ticket sales will be to the medical fund of Olympian Ian Lariba, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
Bannered by the stars of University of the East, all eyes will be on the Iron Lady Warriors as they make their debut in a bid to toughen them up for next year’s University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) season.
Mary Ann Mendrez, Judith Abil, Jana Sta. Maria and playmaker Dana Disquitado are tipped to carry the cudgels for the rookie squad that will be mentored by UE assistant coach Lerma Giron.
“Our objective is to mature the team,” said Giron. “We will work on our skills, on our character and on our attitude. I think we’ll learn a lot in this conference.”
But it’s expected to be an uphill climb for this young and developing squad as the Tornadoes are beaming with talent led by national team members Jaja Santiago and Maika Ortiz as well as veterans Ivy Perez, Rubie de Leon and defense specialist Jen Reyes.
University of Santo Tomas star EJ Laure as well as new recruits CJ Rosario, Kyle Negrito, Roselyn Doria, Nica Guliman, Heather Guino-o are also expected to provide spark for the reigning champion of the import-laced Grand Prix.
Also tipped to go down the wire is the battle between Generika-Ayala and the revamped Cocolife side in the featured encounter.
National team head coach Francis Vicente parades a rock-solid roster built around Gen Casugod, the 6-foot-1 former Far Eastern University ace who is now blossoming into one of the league’s best middle blockers.
She will be aided by Chloe Cortez, Patty Orendain, Angeli Araneta, Shaya Adorador and new recruit Marian Buitre with Bia General and Kath Arado patrolling the backline.
Vicente said there’s a strong sense of urgency for them to win right away.
“This is just a short tournament, a little more than one month to be exact. Every game is very important,” said Vicente, adding that they are eyeing to barged into the top two of their pool that is consists of Foton, Cherrylume and Cocolife.