Players lost: Kyle Negrito, Heather Guino-o, Mary Grace Berto
Players added: Genie Sabas
Key players: Jaja Santiago, Dindin Manabat, EJ Laure, Jen Reyes
Finish last season: Champion
All eyes will be on Foton when the Chooks-To-Go PSL Grand Prix 2017 opens on October 21 as it tries to defend its crown for the second year in a row.
The Tornadoes are gunning for their third straight championship in the Grand Prix and their chances of doing so are huge considering they still have their main offensive weapons in Jaja Santiago and open spiker EJ Laure.
Not to mention the added firepower they will get from Maika Ortiz, who recently gained more international volleyball experience after her stint with the national team alongside Santiago, and holdover Ivy Perez.
Though still in therapy, Manabat is recovering from her injury ahead of schedule, according to libero Jen Reyes. Several reports indicate the former PSL first overall pick, who suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury early this year, could possibly see action in the Grand Prix though she will be eased back into the lineup. When healthy, Manabat is still one of the country’s best middle blockers.
The seasoned Reyes, who is a former Best Libero in the league, said though there is no pressure on the team to bring home another title she knows they’re ready to give it their best to add one more to their trophy case.
“Andun pa rin yung pride mo na makuha uli (ng team) yung championship. Parang iniisip namin back-to-back (na kami), sana yung pangatlo makuha pa rin ng Foton,” said Reyes.
All their locals make Foton a force to be reckoned with, but the foreign reinforcements the Tornadoes will field in this year’s Grand Prix should further bolster their chance for a three-peat.
Similar to the other competing teams this year, Foton tapped three imports: Katarina Vukomanovic (libero), Sara Klisura (open spiker) and Dragana Perunicic (open spiker).
Perunicic hails from Montenegro while Vukomanovic and Klisura are from Serbia. Fortunately for the defending champs, head coach Moro Branislav already has good knowledge of the playing styles of Vukomanovic and Klisura after coaching them both on the Serbian national junior team.
Building chemistry and figuring out the strengths of your imports is vital in a conference like the Grand Prix, and that familiarity between Branislav and his imports, which were all his personal choices, could very well work in the Tornadoes’ favor in their bid for a third straight crown.
“Parang advantage na rin samin na kinuha niya yung players niya from Serbia,” said Reyes. “Alam niya na rin siguro kung paano pasunurin o disiplinahin yung mga player.”