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2015 Philippine Superliga Grand Prix: Booster Pack

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[nextpage title = “PSL GP 2015”]
After successfully hosting the All-Filipino Conference and Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup, the Philippine Superliga (PSL) will now end its season with a bang with the annual import-laden Grand Prix. It kicks off this coming Saturday at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna.

The following teams will battle it out in this conference.

2015 PSL Grand Prix
PETRONPHILIPS GOLD
PSL GP Petron-7701PSL ShopinasvsPhilips-9326
MERALCORC COLA
PSL Championahip Petron vs. Shopinas-1949PSL GP 2015-3
FOTONCIGNAL
PSL FotonvsMNT-0352PSL CignalvsFoton-8368

[/nextpage]
[nextpage title = “Petron”]

Petron Blaze SpikersPSL GP Petron-7701

2014 Grand Prix finish: Champion (8-2)
2015 All-Filipino Conference finish: Champion (10-0)

Team Captain: Maica Morada
Head Coach: George Pascu

Losses: Alexa Micek, Ivy Perez, Alaina Bergsma (2014 GP import)
Additions: N/A
Imports: Rupia Inck, Erica Adachi
Holdovers: Acy Masangkay, Abigail Marano, Rachel Ann Daquis, Mina Aganon, Mayette Zapanta, Jozza Cabalsa, Ces Molina, Ana Del Mundo (L), Jen Reyes (L), Maica Morada, Fille Cainglet Cayetano, Dindin Santiago Manabat.

Fielding the same core players from the past two conferences, the Petron Blaze Spikers have been one of the steadier teams in the PSL. The defending Grand Prix champions have also impressively swept the entire 2015 All-Filipino Conference.

For this conference, a familiar face will appear again as last Grand Prix’s Best Setter, Erica Adachi, will make her return in Petron’s title defense. Meanwhile, the team is set to replace last year’s MVP, Alaina Bergsma, with new Brazilian import Rupia Inck. They may have lost their two draft picks in Micek and Perez, but the team’s foreign reinforcements will surely make up for it.

In terms of cohesion, Petron has the upper hand over other clubs since they started playing together earlier this year during the 2015 AVC Club Volleyball Championship. Moreover, Petron boasts some of the stronger local players, such aa power hitters Manabat, Marano and Daquis. The three were part of the 10 best spikers of the All-Filipino Conference. Completing the team’s core of local players are the likes of Cayetano, Molina, Morada, Reyes and Masangkay.

For the team’s losses, sparingly-used players in Micek and Perez are now gone with the team. The good thing is that it opens up a chance for Petron’s other players to get more playing time.

With a team heavily stacked like Petron, expect every team they face to play their best game against the league’s powerhouse. Going up against this team is no easy task. They are the defending Grand Prix champions for a reason.

2015 PSL Grand Prix
PETRONPHILIPS GOLD
PSL GP Petron-7701PSL ShopinasvsPhilips-9326
MERALCORC COLA
PSL Championahip Petron vs. Shopinas-1949PSL GP 2015-3
FOTONCIGNAL
PSL FotonvsMNT-0352PSL CignalvsFoton-8368

[/nextpage] [nextpage title = “Philips Gold”]

Philips Gold Lady SlammersPSL ShopinasvsPhilips-9326

2014 Grand Prix finish: 6th place (3-7)
2015 All-Filipino Conference finish: 2nd runner-up (5-5)

Team Captain: Michele Gumabao
Head Coach: Francis Vicente

Losses: Iris Tolenada, Shaya Adorador, Rossan Fajardo, Leuseht Dawis, Kristy Jaeckel (2014 GP import), Kaylee Manns (2014 GP import).
Additions: Lindsay Dowd, Iumi Yongco, Gyzelle Sy, Maricar Nepomuceno
Imports: Alexis Olgard, Bojana Todorovic
Holdovers: Myla Pablo, Melissa Gohing (L), Mae Crisostomo (L), Sarah Jane Espelita, Maureen Loren, Lutgarda Malaluan, Desiree Dadang, Michele Gumabao

Just like their All-Filipino Conference campaign, the Philips Gold Lady Slammers once again had a busy off-season. They have smartly signed players who can easily replace the ones now gone from the team.

Looking at Philips Gold’s revamped lineup, they now have more depth compared to their previous campaign. They have quality outside spikers in Pablo, Todorovic and Yongco; a proven leader and defensive-minded utility spiker in Gumabao; a seasoned middle blocker in Dadang; and a libero extraordinaire in Gohing. Moreover, the team was able to replace last conference’s top pick and Best Setter, Tolenada, with another quality setter in Dowd.

Additionally, theiir imports will surely pack a punch come the Grand Prix. Olgard, an alumnae from the University of Souther California, manning the middle will immediately complement the defensive prowess of Gumabao, making it hard for opposing teams to score easily on them.

On the other hand, Todorovic, an alumnae from UCLA, will fit in nicely with the team given her versatility. Her ability to play as an open hitter coupled with her excellent floor defense will surely add to a back row that already features Gohing as libero.

Expect this version of Philips Gold to make a lot of noise in the upcoming Grand Prix given their luxury of fielding in three NCAA Division I volleybelles alongside their veteran local players. And with the international experience added in past months, the sky is the limit for them.

2015 PSL Grand Prix
PETRONPHILIPS GOLD
PSL GP Petron-7701PSL ShopinasvsPhilips-9326
MERALCORC COLA
PSL Championahip Petron vs. Shopinas-1949PSL GP 2015-3
FOTONCIGNAL
PSL FotonvsMNT-0352PSL CignalvsFoton-8368

[/nextpage] [nextpage title = “Meralco”]

Meralco Power SpikersPSL Championahip Petron vs. Shopinas-1949

2014 Grand Prix finish: 1st runner-up (7-3)
2015 All-Filipino Conference finish: 1st runner-up (6-4)

Team Captain: Cha Cruz
Head Coach: Ramil de Jesu

Losses: Wensh Tiu, April Ross Hingpit, Arianna Angustia, Michelle Laborte, Rizza Mandapat, Djanel Cheng, Faye Guevara, Denice Tan, Divine Eguia, Bia General (L), Miyo Shinohara (2014 GP import), Natalia Korobkova (2014 GP import)
Additions: Kim Fajardo, Carol Cerveza, Cyd Demecillo, Celine Hernandez, Dawn Macandili (L), Joy Baron, Mika Reyes, Mika Esperanza.
Imports: Liis Kullerkann, Christina Alessi
Holdovers: Cha Cruz, Kim Dy, Stephanie Mercado, Rochelle Sison (L)

Despite constant changes in management over the past two conferences, Ramil de Jesus’ resiliency proves to be his ultimate strength.

Entering the All-Filipino Conference earlier this year sans reliable veterans Marano, Gumabao and Gohing, De Jesus still found a way to steer his ragtag and rookie-laden Shopinas team to the championship round by putting a premium on defense. But during the championship series, their shallow depth was exposed and Petron proved to be too much for them handle.

Now, with the Grand Prix just around the corner, De Jesus will once again field an entirely new team under a new management. His team has lost 10 players with only 4 of them (Cruz, Dy, Mercado and Sison) remaining from its All-Filipino campaign. To make up for it, he tapped the services of his reliable De La Salle seniors to fill in the void.

No strangers to competitive volleyball, the DLSU seniors will surely make their mark in a semi-professional league like the PSL. They have fought against UAAP powerhouse teams like the Ateneo Lady Eagles, the National University Bulldogs and the University of Santo Tomas Tigresses. They also have some of the taller players in the collegiate leagues with the likes of Reyes, Fajardo, Cerveza and Baron aboard. And people forget that Dy gained international experience as she was part of the PSL selection who competed in the AVC Seniors Volleyball Tournament in China.

With their last Grand Prix campaign fortified by Korobkova (last GP’s best opposite spiker) and Shinohara, Meralco will attempt to replicate that kind of two-way play with new imports Kullerkann and Alessi manning the helm. Having those two play well is a must for Meralco to lessen the load on their main offensive weapons Cruz and Mercado.

Expect this scrappy Meralco team to thrive in the league despite more amateur players in their lineup. With a smart tactician in De Jesus, this team can make their mark through their defense and all-around effort.

2015 PSL Grand Prix
PETRONPHILIPS GOLD
PSL GP Petron-7701PSL ShopinasvsPhilips-9326
MERALCORC COLA
PSL Championahip Petron vs. Shopinas-1949PSL GP 2015-3
FOTONCIGNAL
PSL FotonvsMNT-0352PSL CignalvsFoton-8368

[/nextpage] [nextpage title = “RC Cola”]

RC Cola Air Force RaidersPSL GP 2015-3

2014 Grand Prix finish: 2nd runner-up (5-5)
2015 All-Filipino Conference finish: N/A

Team Captain: Wendy Semana
Head Coach: Rhovyl Veray

Losses: Liza De Ramos, Angel Mae Antipuesto, Emily Brown (2014 GP import), Bonita Wise (2014 GP import).
Additions: Sheryl Denila, Jennifer Manzano
Imports: Lynda Morales, Sarah McClinton
Holdovers: Rhea Dimaculangan, Iari Yongco, Mary Ann Balmaceda (L), Anna Abanto (L), May Pantino, Wendy Semana, Maika Ortiz, Judy Caballejo, Joy Cases, Jocemer Tapic

After a year of absence, the RC Cola Air Force Raiders are now back in action.

For their upcoming Grand Prix campaign, they will be fielding almost the same lineup as last year. There are minor additions but the key for their season will be the performance of their new imports Morales and McClinton.

Previously, RC Cola had the likes of former imports Brown and Wise in their third place finish. Those two volleybelles provided the height for a team not as tall as the other squads. Wise was a solid middle hitter possessing a thunderous running attack, while Brown provided the necessary offensive punch.

But now, Morales and McClinton are entirely new imports for the Air Force Raiders. Taking over Wise is middle blocker Morales, a player of the Puerto Rico national team who has played in numerous FIVB tournaments. At 6-foot-2, RC Cola can make her their defensive anchor and can now go against the tougher teams in the league. On the other hand, McClinton, an alumnae from the University of Kansas, is an open spiker who is also 6-foot-2. She is needed for scoring over long stretches and defending at the same time.

As for local players, the team still has veterans Ortiz, Dimaculangan, Yongco, and Caballejo. They were the linchpins of RC Cola’s campaign last season. Their experience helps weather the storm against tougher opponents.

The key for this team to get going is teamwork. They may be not have an explosive spiker to break through defenses, but their collective effort can work for them. Having personally watched them played in last year’s Grand Prix, what stood out from them was their impeccable teamwork and the way their communication on the court.

2015 PSL Grand Prix
PETRONPHILIPS GOLD
PSL GP Petron-7701PSL ShopinasvsPhilips-9326
MERALCORC COLA
PSL Championahip Petron vs. Shopinas-1949PSL GP 2015-3
FOTONCIGNAL
PSL FotonvsMNT-0352PSL CignalvsFoton-8368

[/nextpage] [nextpage title = “Foton”]

Foton TornadoesPSL FotonvsMNT-0352

2014 Grand Prix finish: 5th place (3-7)
2015 All-Filipino Conference Finish: 4th place (5-5)

Team Captain: Ivy Remulla
Head Coach: Vilet Ponce De Leo

Losses: Nicole Tiamzon, Pam Lastimosa, Dzi Gervacio, Cindy Velasquez, Dona Mae Factor, Kimberly Mendez, Bea Tan (L), Irina Tarasova (2014 GP import), Elena Tarasova (2014 GP import).
Additions: Kayla Tiangco-Williams, Jeannie Delos Reyes, Fiola Ceballos, Bia General (L), Jaja Santiago, Ivy Perez
Imports: Katie Messing, Lindsay Stalzer
Holdovers: Angeli Araneta, Ivy Remulla, Patty Orendain, May Macatuno, Royce Estampa, Kara Acevedo (L).

The Foton Tornadoes were one of the surprise teams last conference with collegiate standouts like Nicole Tiamzon and Pam Lastimosa providing notable offensive power. But with both going back to their respective schools, Foton must find a way to replace them.

During the offseason, they recruited key players in National University’s Jaja Santiago and Bia General. They also landed the services of Kayla Tiangco-Williams, Jeannie Delos Reyes, Fiola Ceballos and Ivy Perez. Furthermore, Foton will feature Stalzer and Messing as their imports.

Foton’s retooled roster features key upgrades, particularly in their offense-defense combo. With aninternationally-experiences middle blocker in Santiago, Foton can now rely on her powerful quick attacks and her reliable net defense. On the other hand, General, coming off a championship campaign in the recently concluded Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference, crucially strengthens Foton’s floor defense in a conference that features hard-hitting imports.

Tiangco-Williams and Ceballos give the team additional firepower on the wings which could take off the burden from open hitter Patty Orendain. For their imports, Stalzer’s two-way play further strengthens Foton’s net defense while Messing offers another offensive option for the Tornadoes.

In sum, with a huge frontline that features Santiago, Stalzer and Messing, and with the backrow armed with the likes of General, Ceballos and Tiangco-Williams, we are in for a vastly-improved and highly entertaining Foton team for the upcoming Grand Prix.

2015 PSL Grand Prix
PETRONPHILIPS GOLD
PSL GP Petron-7701PSL ShopinasvsPhilips-9326
MERALCORC COLA
PSL Championahip Petron vs. Shopinas-1949PSL GP 2015-3
FOTONCIGNAL
PSL FotonvsMNT-0352PSL CignalvsFoton-8368

[/nextpage] [nextpage title = “Cignal”]

Cignal HD SpikersPSL CignalvsFoton-8368

2014 Grand Prix finish: 4th place (4-6)
2015 All-Filipino Conference finish: 5th place (2-8)

Team captain: Michelle Laborte
Head Coach: Sammy Acaylar

Losses: Jeanette Panaga, Jannine Navarro, Lourdes Clemente, Mervic Mangui, Coleen Bravo, Maricar Nepomuceno, Jana Sta. Maria, Michelle Segodine, Mela Tunay, Mary Jane Ticar, Sarah Ammerman (2014 GP import), Lindsay Stalzer (2014 GP import).
Additions: April Ross Hingpit, Wensh Tiu, Arianna Angustia, Michelle Laborte, Rizza Mandapat, Fritz Gallenero, Rapril Aguilar, Amanda Anderson.
Imports: Neome Mullenberg, Arielle Usher
Holdovers: Cherry May Vivas, Jheck Dionela (L), Rica Enclona (L), Charisse Ancheta.

With most of their All-Filipino Conference core gone, the Cignal HD Spikers had a lot of offseason action, with most new players coming from the now-defunct Shopinas team.

Since Jeanette Panaga, Mela Tunay and Jannine Navarro returned to their respective schools, Cignal HD recruited Tiu, Angustia, Hingpit, Laborte and Mandapat to replace them. In addition, the team will bring in Mullenberg and Usher as their imports for the upcoming Grand Prix.

During their All-Filipino Conference campaign, a lot of positives surrounded Cignal. Despite multiple losses, the team constantly put up a good fight against their opponents. They also managed to maximize their wing spikers in Tunay and Navarro to perform well game in and game out.

And with a lot of former Shopinas players climbing aboard, Cignal can finally address defensive deficiencies. In previous campaign, they were a few defensive stops away from winning games consistently. They are loaded with powerful hitters but sometimes defensive shortcomings undid positive effort.

Aside from their liberos Dionela and Enclona, expect this retooled Cignal team to increase effort in their floor defense. If they get things right, they could definitely be at par among the other competing teams in the PSL.

2015 PSL Grand Prix
PETRONPHILIPS GOLD
PSL GP Petron-7701PSL ShopinasvsPhilips-9326
MERALCORC COLA
PSL Championahip Petron vs. Shopinas-1949PSL GP 2015-3
FOTONCIGNAL
PSL FotonvsMNT-0352PSL CignalvsFoton-8368

[/nextpage]

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Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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During the post-game of the San Miguel Beermen’s victory over the NLEX Road Warriors, reigning Coach of the Year Leo Austria said that NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao called Chris Ross the “N” word that caused the commotion.

According to Chris, tinawagan siya ng nigger or ganiyan,” said Austria. “I don’t know but that’s what he explained to me because I confronted Chris Ross because he’s one of the most important players in my team.

“But that’s the thing he doesn’t want to hear so nagflare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

Guiao though denied that he blurted out racial slurs against San Miguel’s Chris Ross.

“Hindi. Hindi ko tinawag na N-word. Ewan ko kung may nakarinig. Pero hindi,” clarified the fiery tactician moments after their 98-109 defeat, their third straight after starting the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight wins.

That tussle, according to Guiao, was just filled with trash talking against each other, as he felt the need to retaliate. In fact, Guiao was even caught by the TV camera saying “son of a bitch” towards the Filipino-American point guard.

“Daldal siya ng daldal eh. Eh sa akin naman kapag ganon, siguro respeto nalang. Lumayo ka nalang tutal mananalo naman na kayo,” he said. “I didn’t understand what he was saying, what he was talking about.

“Nakipagtrash-talking din ako sa kanya.”

Furthermore, the 58-year-old was also caught by the cameras flipping the bird — in one quick motion — also against Ross.

“Oo. Kasama na rin yun.

“Pero ano naman eh, it’s part of, siguro, psychological warfare. Malakas din siya mang-asar. Hindi lang naman sa amin. Everytime naman na mga ganoong skirmishes, he also knows what he’s capable of,” the seven-time champion coach furthered.

But more than this scuffle, it really has become a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now went down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees the great need to end this slump immediately.

“We have to arrest it very soon. Ang susunod na laro namin ay versus Rain or Shine sa Friday. So we need to go back to 50 percent win-loss level para at least may chance ka na maka-playoffs. That’s going to be a crucial game for us,” he stressed.

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Kiefer Ravena shocked with Von Pessumal’s shove: ‘I did not expect that at all’

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Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal have been teammates ever since they were in high school, winning three UAAP juniors crowns together. They won two championships together in the seniors level and even played together in Gilas. They were inseparable.

Friday evening however, they were playing for separate camps.

Ravena admitted that he never expected a shove to come from Pessumal during the NLEX Road Warriors’ clash with San Miguel Beermen.

In an off-ball situation, Pessumal charged at Ravena, sending the rookie down to the floor with 9:50 remaining in the final frame. He was then whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, and Ravena sank one from the line.

“I did not expect that at all,” admitted Ravena after the match in which they lost, 98-109 — their third straight defeat after a 2-0 start. “But hopefully Von doesn’t take it personal.

“I’m just doing my job. They won the game.”

Ravena insisted that there wasn’t any physicality between him and Pessumal prior to that, but he thinks that his former Gilas teammate may have gotten irked by his staredown after blocking him on a fastbreak play early in the fourth.

“When that fastbreak happened — the same exact possession na I challenged him, I looked at him, and after that yun na yung nangyari,” said the 23-year-old guard. “But I never instigated something to provoke Von to do that.

“Probably nung tinignan ko siya.”

Moreover, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft felt that that incident “started all the commotions during the end game (laughs). Yun yung pinaka-una eh. And with that, the team got fired up and it worked for them.”

He may be right, for the game saw more skirmishes after that: from teammate Michael Miranda kicking Chris Ross to the groin, and with his head coach Yeng Guiao figuring in a heated verbal war also against Ross.

But then, Ravena made it clear that it was never a plan of his to put down somebody, especially someone like Pessumal who he sees as a brother for life.

“You know, Von and I, we go way back. Things like this hopefully don’t become too personal.

“I have no intention na ipapahiya yung tao or sasaktan mo yung tao. Wala namang ganun. Laro-laro lang,” said NLEX’s leading scorer.

It was somehow a night to remember for Ravena, but for all the wrong reasons. After Friday’s loss that sent their card to 2-3, the veteran internationalist now sees the need for him and the Road Warriors to push the panic button.

“‘Di na pwedeng sabihin palaging kailangan namin matuto eh. Pangatlong sunod na,” the second-generation cager expressed.

“Kailangan siguro naming umaksyon.”

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Downcast Chris Ross chooses to stay mum after heated altercation with Yeng Guiao

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Through wins or losses, Chris Ross has always accommodated the members of the press asking for interviews and fans requesting for photo ops every after game. But Friday evening, the nine-year pro was despondent.

Visibly agitated with the events that had transpired during the San Miguel Beermen’s tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors, Ross, with his hoodie covering his head, left the Cuneta Astrodome without saying a word.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year had figured in physical play after physical play and verbal exchange after verbal exchange with the frustrated Road Warriors.

Ross and Alex Mallari were both slapped with technicals after a confrontation with 9:06 left. This was just the start of many things to come for the Filipino-American defensive specialist

After knocking down a triple and receiving a taunt from Ross, Michael Miranda was assessed a disqualifying foul for an apparent kick to the groin against Ross with 4:35 left.

The tip of the iceberg came with 1:46 left to play and the game all but settled.

Yeng Guiao and Ross figured in a heated word war that resulted in Ross’ second technical foul for the game. Referees and players from both sides had to separate the two to prevent things from escalating.

San Miguel coach Leo Austria alleged that the fiery NLEX mentor said the “N” word, while some said Guiao called Ross a “bitch”.

Ross finished the game with four points, eight rebounds, and four steals in 37 minutes of action.

For sure, penalties and suspensions will come out of this game.

And it was better for Ross to stay silent.

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Jason Brickman flirts with triple-double as Mono holds off Singapore

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After playing his worst game of the season last Sunday against Tanduay Alab Pilipinas, Jason Brickman bounced back, steering the Mono Vampire to a 91-88 road victory over the Singapore Slingers, Friday evening at the OCBC Arena.

The 26-year-old, who finished with just seven points and three assists in their 71-104 loss to Alab, tallied 10 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. The league-leader in assists did not take a break, playing all 40 minutes.

But it was not a walk in the park for the Thailand-based squad.

Mono led by as much as 22 points, 60-48, with 7:46 left, 16 points entering the final frame. A furious fourth quarter rally by Singapore sliced the lead, turning the game into a single-possession contest with a minute left. The steady hands of Samuel Deguara and Mike Singletary from the stripe fended off Singapore.

Brickman’s compatriot Paul Zamar chipped in 13 markers for Mono.

Since torching Alab last January 3, Filipino-Canadian AJ Mandani has been on a slump, going just 3-for-11 from the field for nine points.

Mono’s World Imports Samuel Deguara and Mike Singletary both finished with 26 points with the former hauling down 18 rebounds. For Singapore, Xavier Alexander paced the Slingers with 29 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.

With the win, the Vampire kept solo third with a 7-4 slate. On the other hand, the Slingers dropped its second straight game since winning against Alab, falling to 5-6.

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