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Foton, Petron teams to beat in Grand Prix

Last year’s finals protagonists – Foton and Petron – are still the solid forces to look out for when the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix fires off this Saturday at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.

After representing the country in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship, hopes are high for the Foton Tornadoes, who will march into this prestigious inter-club tourney with seasoned imports, upgraded roster and a new head coach.

Former Most Valuable Player Lindsay Stalzer will be back together with fellow American Ariel Usher to carry the scoring loads while prized middle blocker Dindin Manabat will finally reunite with her sister, Jaja Santiago, after a brief hiatus from playing in the club league.

But the most impressive move was the acquisition of head coach Moro Branislav of Serbia, who will also call the shots for PSL-F2 Logistics Manila in the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship from Oct. 18 to 23 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Branislav will be bringing with him a vast wealth of international experience, highlighted with stops in club teams in countries like Yugoslavia, Greece, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Kuwait, Belarus and North Korea.

“Foton team has all the right pieces to win the PSL title,” said the 59-year old guru who guided April 25 Sports Club of North Korea to back-to-back appearances in the AVC club tourney. “My job is to put together all those pieces and complete the championship puzzle.”

Branislav said Manabat and Santiago will form the defensive fortress at the net together with Angeli Araneta and Maika Ortiz while Stalzer, Usher, Patty Orendain, EJ Laure and Sisi Rondina will supply the offense.

Not to be outdone, Petron also made some serious moves, making this year’s edition of the Grand Prix one of the best and most exciting ever.

The Tri-Activ Spikers acquired high-flying Stephanie Niemer to light up the scoreboard while 6-foot-5 Serena Warner will man the defense to fill the void created by the departure of Far Eastern University stars Bernadeth Pons and Remy Palma, who opted to concentrate on their preparation for the UAAP.