The Petron Blaze Spikers will march in full force to defend their crown in the Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference that starts on Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Powered by veteran Ging Balse and a healthy Frances Molina, the Blaze Spikers are coming in with heavyweight status.
Balse, a member of the national squad that won the bronze medal in the 23rd Southeast Asian Games in 2005, joined the Blaze Spikers to reunite with former University of Santo Tomas teammates Rhea Dimaculangan and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas.
Molina will also be back in full strength after suffering a stress fracture injury that prompted her to withdraw from the national squad, which saw action in the 18th Asian Games and AVC Asian Women’s Cup last month.
Also set to carry the cudgels for the star-studded Petron side are Mika Reyes, Jasmine Alcayde, Buding Duremdes, Remy Palma, Pia Gaiser, Chloe Cortez, Angel Legacion, and Carmela Tunay.
High-leaping Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons will provide the scoring spark for the Blaze Spikers.
“Gusto ko lang maging healthy muna this time around,” said Molina, the former San Beda University star who skippered the squad when they crushed the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers in a dramatic best-of-three finals showdown last year.
“Kami yung defending champions, kaya may pressure talaga sa amin. Pero confident naman kami dahil naging maganda naman yung preparation namin.”
With five titles under their belt – including a rare sweep of the All-Filipino in 2015 – Petron are arguably the league’s most decorated squad. And luck continues to roll the Blaze Spikers’ way this year.
They ruled the Grand Prix with Lindsay Stalzer and Katherine Bell as imports, before Rondina and Pons plucked the Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup title, which sparked speculations that the Blaze Spikers were gunning for a rare Gram Slam.
Unfortunately, Petron bowed to rival F2 Logistics in an action-packed finals encounter in the Invitational Conference.
“Hindi magiging madali yung conference na ito,” said Ian Fernandez, the chief deputy of head coach Shaq Delos Santos.
“We just have to go there and do our best in every game.”
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