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Foton, F2 start semifinal series


Games Tuesday
(The Arena, San Juan City)
4:15 p.m. – Petron vs Cocolife
7:00 p.m. – F2 Logistics vs Foton

National University star Jaja Santiago is set to make her much-awaited league comeback tonight as Foton takes on defending champion F2 Logistics at the start of their 2018 Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga Grand Prix semifinals series at The Arena in San Juan City.

The 6-foot-5 Santiago should be eager to move on from a heartbreaking finish with the Lady Bulldogs in the UAAP wars as she suits up for the Tornadoes in their 7 p.m. showdown with the Cargo Movers.

Aside from Santiago, University of the Philippines standouts Tots Carlos and Isa Molde will also be around to provide enough support to imports Elizabeth Wendel and Channon Thompson, who are both starting to jell with local stars Dindin Manabat, Gyselle Sy and Maika Ortiz.

That should give Foton coach Rommel Abella an added confidence booster as the Tornadoes try to dethrone the favored Cargo Movers and sustain their own bid for a third Grand Prix crown.

“We’re facing a well-oiled machine,” he said, noting that they have to slow down reigning league MVP Maria Jose Perez and Kennedy Bryan as well as mainstays Aby Marano, Kim Fajardo and skipper Cha Cruz if they want to gain the headstart.

“Still, F2 Logistics has some lapses. We need to pounce on those lapses and show that we want it more than them. We’re ready to triple our effort if we have to. The important thing is to show that we are hungrier and we want it more than them.”

Also expected to gain a fair share of the spotlight is the 4:15 p.m. opener between Petron and Cocolife, both leaving no stone unturned to claim the coveted title.

After the Asset Managers rolled the dice by hiring FIVB World Grand Prix veteran Marta Drpa in the middle of the tournament, the Blaze Spikers also took a big gamble in bringing in seasoned international campaigner Katherine Bell in lieu of American Hillary Hurley, who is nursing a recurring ankle injury.

A 6-foot-1 former University of Texas standout, Bell is known for her versatility as she can play the open, opposite and middle blocker roles. She saw action in Puerto Rico, South Korea and Turkey before flying in last week to help the Blaze Spikers in their championship quest.

“She is a hardworking player who can play multiple positions,” said Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos, who will lean on veteran Lindsay Stalzer, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina and Mika Reyes for additional firepower.

“She’s a good communicator who loves to motivate her teammates. I hope she can help us reach our ultimate goal, which is to win the title.”