Foton, Cignal fight for life as PSL 3rd round gets underway

Powerhouse RC Cola-Army and Petron try to realize their immediate goals while Foton and Cignal fight for dear life as they figure in a pair of blockbuster matches on Tuesday when the third round of the 2016 PLDT Home Ultera Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference women’s volleyball tournament gets going at the Imus Sports Complex in Cavite.

After sweeping the opening round, the Lady Troopers plunged back to action at 4 o’clock against the Toplander before the similarly-unscathed Tri-Activ Spikers clash with the HD Spikers at 6 p.m. in this inter-club tourney sponsored by Asics, Mikasa, Senoh, Mueller and Grand Sport with TV5 as official broadcast partner.

Both toting identical 1-2 win-loss records, Foton and Cignal have little room for any error as they need to sweep their final three matches if they intend to keep their hopes of advancing to the final round where the top three local teams will take on a top-tier guest squad from Thailand.

Read: Error-prone Cignal HD Spikers still manage to score a win

Should Foton and Cignal drop their matches, the final round cast will be completed, with F2 Logistics joining RC Cola-Army and Petron in the next round.

Although they are facing a daunting task, Cignal coach Sammy Acaylar is unfazed, confident the HD Spikers can avenge a 19-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-21 setback dealt by the Tri-Activ Spikers in their second-round meeting last week.

“Medyo mahirap ang haharapin namin pero kakayanin namin ‘yan,” said Acaylar, whose wards are coming off a four-set defeat to the Cargo Movers over the weekend at the Batangas City Sports Complex in Batangas City.

“Alam naman natin na malakas ang Petron. Pero mas uhaw kami at handa kaming gawin ang lahat para makuha ang panalo. We’ll take it one game at a time. We will prepare hard and give them a very good fight.”

Read: Petron blanks Logistics behind Bang Pineda, Jen Reyes

Consistency on both ends will serve as the key for Cignal against Petron, according to Acaylar. “Nakita naman natin na maganda ang inilaro namin nu’ng first set. If we can sustain our energy and diminish our errors, we’ll have a very good chance. Petron is a good team, so we have to play our best volleyball from start to finish,” he said.

Also determined to stay alive are the Toplander of Foton, the reigning Grand Prix champion who are still adjusting to their new life without several key players who are seeing action in the UAAP Season 78 women’s volleyball tourney.

Like Acaylar, Foton coach Vilet Ponce-De Leon is facing a similar problem.

“Our main problem is consistency,” Ponce-De Leon said. “With the addition of Maika (Ortiz), Rhea (Dimaculangan) and Angeli (Tabaquero), we gained a lot of experience which we could use against other veteran teams, especially RC Cola-Army. We just have to be more consistent both on offense and defense.”

Read: Like a diesel engine: Aiza Maizo starts slow, but ends strong for Petron

Aside from the Ortiz, Dimaculangan and Tabaquero, who helped University of Santo Tomas become a powerhouse squad in the UAAP a few years back, the Toplander also have the likes of Patty Jane Orenadin, Angeli Araneta and hard-hitting open spiker Dana Henson.

Standing in their way are the Lady Troopers, led by Jovelyn Gonzaga, Mary Jean Balse-Pabayo, Nene Bautista and former Most Valuable Player Rachel Anne Daquis. – By Jerome Lagunzad

Follow this writer on Twitter: @JLFoxSports

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