Let’s resume our look at the imports of the upcoming Philippine Super Liga (PSL) Grand Prix with the reinforcements of Cignal HD.
Head Coach Sammy Acaylar is a brilliant tactician as we all witnessed how he brought a semi-nondescript squad (in short, not a title favourite) all the way to the finals of the PSL Invitational. Sure he had eventual MVP Venus Bernal and superstar libero Jen Reyes in his fold then, but the whole team was pretty much an assembly of role players.
In the PSL GP, he’ll have neither in his roster. That’s supposed to make it an uphill climb for the HD Spikers, right? Well aside from the fact that Reyes was replaced by another phenomenal libero in Jheck Dionela and the team just added a pair of proven winners in veteran setter Chie Saet and her former DLSU teammate—who just happens to be a two-time UAAP MVP—Maureen Penetrante-Ouano, Cignal also beefed up their line-up with two 6’1” attackers from China in Li Zhan Zhan and Xie Lei.
Cignal is now the tallest team in the league—or at least it feels like it with returning center Michelle Datuin (5’10”), Penetrante-Ouano (6’0”) and former UST block machine Lilet Mabbayad (5’11”). The addition of the Chinese duo—in the open-spiker slot—now make the HD Spikers a legitimate title contender.
Xie, 27, is the seasoned one of the two; having been on the national pool for over decade and has campaigned all across her nation in that span. Li is the fresh-faced 19-year-old who—according to those who have seen her play—has the makings of a future national team player. Regardless, these two will more than make up for the departure of Bernal and will bring more offense to an already dangerous HD Spikers squad. They have my vote for the most improved line-up.
For the PLDT MyDSL Speed Boosters, the addition of Roger Gorayeb now changes the dynamic of the team.
Gorayeb has coached practically everyone in the line-up at one point of their careers and proudly paraded his thirteenth member at the PSL GP Fan Night with UST’s Maru Banaticla officially foregoing her final year of eligibility and becoming the Speed Boosters’ third open-spiker, after former multi NCAA MVP Lou Ann Latigay and the very powerful Angela Benting. PLDT MyDSL also has the only imports coming from the western hemisphere as former Kansas Jayhawk Savannah Noyes and former Iowa State Cyclone Kaylee Manns officially made their vibrant presences felt during Fan Night.
Noyes, 26, is a 6’3” quicker who also dabbles in the utility spot and has played professionally in Slovakia, France and England. She's also a fitness nut having been immersed in crossfit after her collegiate days. Her arrival addresses the center problem of the Speed Boosters as veteran bigs Charo Soriano and Nica Guliman now have help in the middle.
Manns is a 5’11” setter—who’s got a baritone voice. She will be splitting time with veteran iconic setter Rubie de Leon and former Adamson starter Des Patilano in doing the orchestration chores for the team. The dimension Manns brings is definitely her height as she becomes an extra defender at the net. Many fans will look forward to her match-up against the great Tina Salak when the TMS-Philippine Army and the Speed Boosters lock horns.
Speaking of the Lady Troopers, it appears they’ve survived an add one-subtract one situation as far as their roster goes.
Head Coach Rico de Guzman successfully brought into the line-up Philippine volleyball ambassadress Rachel Anne Daquis; whose PSL debut has been one of the most anticipated moments in all of Philippine volleyball. However, the subtraction came when his chief libero Sha-Sha Siatan-Torres went down with an ACL injury during the recently concluded Shakey’s V-League Open Conference and was down to only reserve floor patroller Angela Nunag to carry the defensive load.
But de Guzman, also a master tactician as well as being a real-life master sergeant, invoked the volleyball gods to help him in his time of need and his foreign angels came in the form of Thailand’s youthful national team candidate Wanitchaya Luangtonglang (an open-spiker) and a 5’4” libero from Japan in Yuki Murakoshi.
With seasoned warrior Michelle Carolino still nursing various injuries, Daquis will now share the offensive duties with Luangtonglang, 21, and may ignite a fire in the 5’10” outside hitter. In fact during Fan Night, Daquis and Luangtonglang sat beside each other the whole night and chatted for hours. Although we all know that Daquis can also win any Miss Congeniality contest, it appears that she and her new Thai friend may just be the spark the Lady Troopers need to subdue any uprising from the opposition.
As for Murakoshi—also 21—she began getting acclaim in Japan’s volleyball youth scene as a feisty setter. But because of her genetic shortcomings, she also began taking on libero duties in the Kanto University League as a student in the Budo International University.
She calls herself a “defensive setter”.
“I’m very excited to take part in the (Philippine) Super Liga,” Murakoshi said in a statement issued by the league. “I would like to capture the fans by my defensive performance.”
If so, then she’s just what de Guzman needs to plug that starting libero role.
It still appears that the TMS-Philippine Army is the team to beat, but with quality imports now reinforcing all the competing squads, it looks to be an open field for the PSL GP.
I can’t really see who’s got the distinct edge. It’s going to be one fun month of volleyball. I haven’t even talked about the Men’s Division yet!
Let’s hope this Yolanda storm tires itself out before we open on Sunday (November 10th) so we can all witness Philippine volleyball elevate to the next level.
These imports will be fun to watch. I can’t wait.
Follow Noel Zarate on Twitter (@NoelZarate) and email firstname.lastname@example.org