A heated, wide-open derby is expected when the Philippine Superliga (PSL) fires off its All-Filipino Conference this Saturday at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.
With three-time champion RC Cola-Army eager to clinch yet another title, all seven other teams also aim to bring down what has emerged as a dynasty in this top-level women’s inter-club volleyball tournament that will be aired live over TV5 and Aksyon TV.
The Lady Troopers didn’t shake their roster and they remain a strong force with the fluid chemistry developed by the battle-scarred veterans in Rachel Anne Daquis, Honey Royse Tubino, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Nerissa Bautista, Michelle Carolino and Tina Salak.
RC Cola-Army reigned supreme in the PSL Invitational Conference over a solid Est Cola club, a young squad composed of Thailand’s National Team B earlier this year.
Few weeks later, RC Cola-Army A of Gonzaga and Bautista outfought Cherry Rondina and Patty Jane Orendain of Foton to rule the PSL Challenge Cup beach volleyball tournament.
But the Lady Troopers will no longer be alone at the top.
F2 Logistics, Petron, Cignal and Foton all vowed to knock the crown off the Lady Troopers’ heads while Generika, Standard Insurance-Navy and Amy’s Kitchen-Perpetual are also capable of pulling off upset.
The Cargo Movers are tipped as emerging heavy contenders after hiring the nucleus of the La Salle team that crushed mighty Ateneo de Manila in the recent UAAP finals showdown.
They also drafted Ara Galang as top overall pick in the PSL Annual Rookie Draft and retained the services of Aby Marano, Cha Cruz, Paneng Mercado and Danika Gendrauli.
“F2 Logistics may be young but its already overflowing with experience,” said Generika coach Francis Vicente. “The core of La Salle will be a serious threat not only because they won the UAAP crown over Ateneo, but because they already gained significant experience in the (PSL) Grand Prix as members of Meralco last year.”
Not to be outdone, Petron and Cignal are also being tipped as serious contenders.
The Tri-Activ Spikers lost Marano and Daquis to other teams while Dindin Manabat and Fille Cayetano sat out due to pregnancy, but they remain heavy favorites after acquiring veteran Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Bang Pineda and Cherry Nunag as well as drafting former NCAA Best Attacker CJ Rosario as second overall to join the already formidable cast of Ces Molina, Maica Morada, Mina Aganon and Jen Reyes.
Cignal, for its part, will parade the solid core of Djanel Cheng, Jeanette Panaga and Janine Navarro of reigning NCAA champion College of Saint Benilde as well as Cherry Mae Vivas, April Ross Hingpit, Jheck Dionela and rookie Mary Grace Berte of Davao.
Still, the heaviest among heavy contenders will be Foton.
After winning the Grand Prix in an impressive fashion, Foton re-loaded its roster with the addition of veterans Maika Ortiz and Rhea Dimaculangan early this year and UST stars EJ Laure and Rondina together, Arellano aces Shirley Salamagos and Danna Henson and La Salle spiker Carol Cerveza in the off-season.