By John Bryan Ulanday
(Sta. Rosa Multipurpose Sports Complex, Laguna)
1:30 p.m. — Opening ceremonies
3 p.m. — Philippines vs Vietnam
5 p.m. — Thailand vs Indonesia
PLDT duo Grethcel Soltones and Jasmine Nabor are expected to provide major difference for the Philippine women’s volleyball team which aims for an even better finish in the second leg of the inaugural ASEAN Grand Prix set to fire off today (Oct. 4) at the Sta. Rosa Multipurpose Sports Complex in Laguna.
Coming off an impressive bronze medal finish in the opening leg held in Thailand last month, the Nationals parade a new-look roster with the additions of PLDT pride Soltones and Nabor in a bid to reach the finale this time that would serve as a huge morale-booster for their upcoming 30th Southeast Asian Games campaign.
Vietnam stands on the way as the Filipina spikers’ first test at 3 p.m. just right after the 1:30 p.m. opening ceremonies of this four-nation ASEAN GP also serving as a test event for the biennial sports showpiece here set Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.
At 5 p.m., first leg gold medalist Thailand and runner-up Indonesia take center stage in the finals rematch of this three-day regional volleyball tilt.
It will be the return of power hitter Soltones and playmaker Nabor to the Philippine team after previously suiting up in the AVC Asian Cup held in Thailand last year.
The scorer-setter duo replaced Fil-Am sensations Kalei Mau and Alohi-Robins Hardy who both served as catalysts in the Philippines’ podium finish in the first leg. Mau, the reigning PSL MVP, is nursing a left Achilles injury while Robins-Hardy was deemed ineligible after failing to secure a Philippine passport.
Also returning to the Philippine team is Creamline star spiker Alyssa Valdez after sitting out the first leg due to an ankle injury. Valdez, together with her teammate Jia Morado, PacificTown Army’s Jovelyn Gonzaga, UST’s Eya Laure and Choco Mucho’s Maddie Madayag have been given greenlight by the PVL to play for the PHL women’s volleyball team anew.
Morada, Gonzaga, Laure and Madayag were key parts of the Nationals’ first leg campaign where they eclipsed the Vietnamese to cop the bronze medal.
Completing the Philippine team are PSL stars Mylene Paat and Roselyn Doria of Cignal, Kath Arado of Generika-Ayala, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Ces Molina of Petron together with F2 Logistics’ Dawn Macandili, captain Aby Marano and ASEAN GP opening leg best middle blocker Majoy Baron.
After Vietnam, which is expected to bank on ASEAN GP best libero Thi Kim Lien Nguyen, the Pinay spikers take on champion Thailand and silver medalist Indonesia over the weekend.