(FilOil Flying V Centre)
4 p.m. — Opening ceremony
5 p.m. — Petron vs Generika-Ayala
7 p.m. — PLDT vs Sta. Lucia
New-look Petron opens its three-peat campaign while Sta. Lucia parades its retooled lineup when the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix fires off Saturday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
After losing its stars, the Blaze Spikers essay a new chapter as they tackle Generika-Ayala at 5 p.m. while the Lady Realtors face PLDT Home Fibr at 7 p.m. to cap a pair of explosive double-header of this prestigious women’s club league bankrolled by Cocolife, Sogo, Eurotel, Sweet and Fit Stevia, UCPB Gen, Team Rebel Sports and Bizooku.
Prior to that, there would be a simple opening ceremony where all eight competing teams will parade with their respective imports and male escorts to usher in the brand-new season of this tourney that also has Gerflor, Senoh, Asics, Mikasa and Mueller Sports as technical partners.
The league will also announce its newest ambassador, who would follow the steps once taken by Gretchen Ho, Cha Cruz, Mika Reyes, Aby Maraño and Rachel Anne Daquis.
Still, all eyes will be on Petron and Sta. Lucia.
After winning back-to-back Grand Prix titles, the Blaze Spikers lost their core of Denden Lazaro, Sisi Rondina, Bernadeth Pons, Carmela Tunay, Chloe Cortez, Rhea Dimaculangan and Reyes in the off-season. Even their champion coaches in Shaq Delos Santos and Ian Fernandez walked away, kicking off a new era under seasoned mentor Emil Lontoc.
“Looking at the composition of Petron, it lost its main core that dominated the Grand Prix for the past two years,” said Lontoc, a living legend in the coaching circle.
“Many people are counting us out. But I’m optimistic. I know these new set of players will step up the way they did during tuneups and practices.”
With more than half of the team gone, import Katherine Bell made a return together with Remy Palma, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Frances Molina, who will join new recruits like Rebecca Rivera, Ging Balse-Pabayo, Jem Gutierrez, Roselle Baliton and Angela Nunag.
Generika-Ayala head coach Sherwin Meneses said Petron remains a solid force so they have to do everything to pull off a shocker and kick off their campaign on a high note.
“We have a great opportunity this year. For the past seasons, we really wanted to reach the Finals but we fell short. This time, we will work hard to go all the way,” said Meneses, who will bank on new recruits Dimaculangan, Mina Aganon, Eli Soyud and Toni Rose Basas with Elizabeth Vicet Campos of Cuba as reinforcement.
Also tipped to draw massive attention is Sta. Lucia Realty.
The Lady Realtors also underwent a revamp and let go quite a number of solid players in favor for veterans, who vowed to lead them to their first semifinal appearance.
The quintet of Reyes, Djanel Cheng, Bang Pineda, Royce Tubino and Filipino-American Jessica Vestal is now on board to join MJ Philips, Pam Lastimosa, Amy Ahomiro, Alex Bollier and Rubie de Leon with former Canadian national team member Shaina Joseph serving as import.