Cignal defends title minus 3 star players

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By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Saturday
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3 p.m. – Opening ceremonies
4 p.m. – Generika-Ayala vs UA-UP
6 p.m. – Foton vs F2 Logistics

All eyes will be on star spiker Rachel Anne Daquis as injury-hit Cignal goes all out in its title-retention bid in the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference that gets going on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Without some of their vital cogs, led by standout Jovelyn Gonzaga who is still recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, the HD Spikers are expected to count heavily on the 5-foot-10 Daquis, a former PSL All-Filipino Finals MVP winner when she was still with the Petron Blaze Spikers.

Cignal will also miss the services of veteran Honey Royse Tubino, who joined Cocolife but moved back to the Philippine Army which will carry the colors of Smart, and Janine Marciano who is also recovering from her own ACL injury.

Also missing from last year’s title-winning squad are Chie Saet and Paneng Mercado, who both have been playing their trade in the Premier Volleyball League.

Still, Cignal coach Edgar Barroga remains optimistic that they still have enough tools left as they try to hold their ground against perennial heavyweights, led by reigning Grand Prix titleholder Petron, F2 Logistics and Foton.

“To be honest, defending the title is never easy,” said Barroga. “But I can see the players’ willingness and determination. They treat this situation more as a challenge than an obstacle. We may not be as star-studded as last year, but we’re making up for it by working harder.”

Barroga is also counting on national pool member Mylene Paat, Janine Navarro and Rialen Sante to deliver as well as middle blockers Cherry Vivas and Shirley Salamagos, playmaker Acy Masangkay and libero Jheck Dionela.

But Daquis, now 30, remains as the heart and soul of the HD Spikers.

“We’re devising some plays, especially for Rachel,” said Barroga, referring to the former Far Eastern University star who is showing flashes of her usual brilliance in their recent practices.

“We know that she’s been hampered with injuries the past couple of conferences. We want to bring back her confidence.

We want her to lead us back to the title. She is our leader.”

Meanwhile, the second conference opens with a pair of blockbuster matches, with Generika-Ayala taking on United Auctioneers-University of the Philippines at 4 p.m. followed by an explosive showdown between Foton and F2 Logistics at 6 p.m.

What do you think?

Written by Tempo Online

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