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Philips Gold imports Olgard, Todorovic thrilled to play before PH volleyball crowd

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In last year’s Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix, the Philips Gold Lady Slammers (formerly known as the Mane ‘N Tail Lady Stallions during the 2015 Grand Prix) paraded the import tandem of Kristy Jaeckel from the University of Florida and Kaylee Manns from Iowa State.

Now, with Philips Gold aiming to make a strong push in their upcoming GP campaign, the team is set to field in its new imports namely Alexis Olgard from the University of Southern California (USC) and Bojana Todorovic from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Alexis Olgard

Standing at 6-foot-5 and one of the highly-touted recruits during her NCAA years, Olgard’s competitive edge and veteran savvy immediately gives the Lady Slammers a massive upgrade at their middle blocker slot.

“I am a quiet but effective player. I am extremely competitive and hate to lose. So with that being said, I will play as hard as I can to get us where we want to be as a team,” Olgard said in an exclusive interview with Tiebreaker Times. “I was extremely excited when I was approached by Philips Gold. I can’t wait to get there and work with the girls and coaches to win it all!”

“As a middle blocker I would say my height helps me a lot with blocking as well as hitting. I am able to occupy a lot of area when blocking and I can easily hit over people. I would also say I am a focused and calm player so in tight situations I am able to keep a level head and play through intense situations.”

Some of Olgard’s key highlights during her four-year career with the USC Trojans was being named to the Pac-10 Conference All-Freshman Team during her rookie year in 2010 and Pac-12 All-Conference and AVCA Pacific South All-Region Team honors during her senior year.

Furthermore, Olgard’s USC squads were always consistent title contenders as they always landed in the Elite 8 and netted Final Four appearances twice during 2010 and 2011.

“My previous experiences have helped me immensely! At USC I was able to help my team make it to the NCAA Championship Tournament all four years I was attending,” she added.

After a successful collegiate career, Olgard took part in the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball team that competed during the 2014 NORCECA World Championship Qualification. She also got her first taste of professional volleyball action as she suited up for VT Aurubis Hamburg in Germany on the same year.

“In Hamburg I was able to help a team go from not winning one game the season prior to getting them into the playoffs. I think all of these experiences have helped me become the player I am today because they have taught me how to be resilient, tenacious, and determined to get where we need to go as a team.”

Now, with all the experience she amassed, Olgard will take her talents before the passionate Filipino volleyball crowd. With volleyball on the rise here in the country, Olgard will surely find her place among fans and enthusiasts alike.

“I am so excited to play for a volleyball driven country. Outside of college the U.S. doesn’t seem to recognize indoor volleyball the way other countries around the world do,” she shared. “I have only heard amazing things about the Philippines and it will be such an honor to play for Philips Gold and share our success as a team, not only with each other, but with our fans as well.”

Bojana Todorovic

In an effort to add more firepower to their offense, Philips Gold tapped the services of UCLA’s Bojana Todorovic to bolster its open spiker depth. Standing at 5-foot-11 and the former libero of the US Women’s U23 National Volleyball Team, Todorovic also gives an immediate boost to the team’s net and floor defense that is currently anchored by team captain Michele Gumabao and Melissa Gohing.

“My first impressions of Philips Gold were that they are more than ready to honor their name and truly go for the gold!” Todorovic told in an exclusive interview with Tiebreaker Times. “The coaches and managers approached me in a very professional manner, explained all the details clearly, and welcomed me with open arms. It already feels like I am a part of a new family! I can’t wait.”

During her collegiate career for the UCLA Bruins, Todorovic was part of the 2011 UCLA Bruins team that won the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Title against Illinois. Also, she had an All-Pac-10 Freshman team during her rookie year in 2009 and she is also a three-time Academic All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection.

“Playing for UCLA in the NCAA championships made me the player I am today. It gave a new perspective of the game, gave me the physical training to get stronger than I have ever been, and taught me how to perform at my best under high pressure,” she added. “It wasn’t easy, but nothing worth fighting for is easy. I learned how to fight until I have nothing left, to push my limits so that I can reach new barriers, and to enjoy every minute of it.”

Aside from being a proven scorer, Todorovic’s vast experience will also be a big boost for Philips Gold’s Grand Prix campaign. In a pressure-packed import-laden conference, she will surely be a calming presence and she can also be the glue that binds them together.

“My greatest strength in volleyball is my ability to bring a team together and bring the best out of every player. That is my goal,” Todorovic remarked. “I have no doubt I will do my part physically, but No matter how good one player is athletically, they cannot succeed without their teammates. It’s not about me, but about US.”

“I actually love the pressure! It’s what I thrive on as a competitive athlete. It will challenge me and inspire me to work even harder for my team. There is nothing like the thrill of working hard, giving everything you have for your volleyball family, and knowing that no matter what happens, you will do it together.”

Now, with Olgard and Todorovic manning the helm for the Lady Slammers foreign reinforcements, the passionate Filipino crowd will also be a big part of their campaign moving forward. Knowing how much energy they give to a team through their unwavering support, both imports will surely make it a point to give it their all in every game they play.

“I’m excited beyond belief to meet the Philippine volleyball fans I have heard so much about. I don’t know if they know this, but they have an international reputation for being the best, most devoted, and most enthusiastic fans in ALL of volleyball! The fans are just as much a part of a team’s success as the players themselves and I can’t wait to feel the energy the Filipino fans are going to bring to the gym!”

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Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’

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Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players since entering in 2012, was all praises for the way the officiating has changed this 43rd season — by just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Sunday night.

As has been said many times, physicality had become something controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty, as he has paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it is a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he can display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence

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For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense

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Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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Frustrated Jared Dillinger admits ‘he’s getting sick’ of Meralco’s bad PH Cup runs

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It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have struggled in the Philippine Cup for the last three years. During the last two seasons, the eight-year-old franchise’s win-loss tally is four wins and 18 losses.

And in the 2018 edition, the narrative has been the same, with little to no hope of it turning the other way around.

The Bolts bowed to the TNT Katropa, 99-81, Sunday night — their third straight defeat after winning over Blackwater Elite in their opener last December. If things continue as they are, it looks like another poor all-Filipino tilt run is looming.

“We’re 1-3 and there’s nothing to be happy about,” said Jared Dillinger, who had 14 points and five caroms in the match at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s a long season though… We [shouldn’t] panic but it’s not fun right now.

“The Philippine Cup has been our Achilles heel and every damn Philippine Cup we get our ass kicked. I’m getting sick of it.”

In this game, Meralco missed the services of top forwards Ranidel De Ocampo and Cliff Hodge due to injuries. But for Dillinger, those issues shouldn’t be excuses.

“When you get two guys like Ranidel and Cliff out, as a team, that’s the opportunity for the guys below them to step up,” asserted Dillinger, who has been with the franchise since 2013.

“It doesn’t have to mean scoring, getting the assists or rebound, it’s just making the right play, being smart.”

Asked what went wrong in this particular loss versus their sister team, where they shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and had committed 17 turnovers, the 10-year veteran lamented the poor effort that the Bolts put up.

“TNT didn’t do anything much, given that they played well. But they didn’t have any secret schemes against us. They just passed the ball around, and they got open shots,” added the 10-year pro, as TNT made 23 assists and shot 18 triples.

“Our effort wasn’t there. We got to put up the intensity cause it sucks right now.”

Meralco have a chance to end their slump against the Kia Picanto this Wednesday. Dillinger sees it as a do-or-die affair, warning that it will be a grind-out affair knowing that the Picanto is coming off a skid-ending win over Rain or Shine.

Do-or-die ’cause that’s gonna be a playoff game. Thank God they beat Rain or Shine ’cause you don’t want to be that one team that gives the win to a 0-16 [team]. You don’t want to play teams like that,” stressed the all-around forward.

“Nothing to take away from Kia though. It’s gonna be tough.”

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