The Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference opens on Saturday, June 15 at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
With the collegiate volleyball season already done, the students will now go back to the "summer jobs" with their respective PSL squads -- some donning PSL jerseys for the first time.
For the Generika-Ayala Lifesavers, they will be welcoming back libero-extraordinaire Kath Arado after the national team candidate played her final season for the University of the East (UE) Lady Warriors along with college teammates Yeye Gabarda and Meann Mendrez; a triumvirate that could turn out to be game-changers for the always contending team.
Coach Sherwin Meneses' charges performed admirably last season and came within one set of upsetting the 2016 champions F2 Logistics in the Final Four. Many credit Arado's spunk and determination for the marked improvement and now that she's back, all eyes will be on the unofficial dark horse squad of this tournament.
Hingpit's retirement was made known even prior to the start of this season and Lavitoria slowly began inheriting the starting setter's position midway through the Grand Prix. Lavitoria's length and defensive prowess adds a different dimension for the Lifesavers' all-around game while crafty veteran Macatuno will set for the second unit.
The UE stalwarts, however, will be carrying quite a load when the conference gets underway with Arado reprising her role as lead floor patroller where she captured the tournament's Best Libero plum for her heroics. Arado, the 21-year-old national team candidate from Iligan City, will already have a lot of familiarity with Mendrez and Gabarda. However, her meshing with Lavitoria, who was not yet with the team last AFC, will be key in the campaign of Generika-Ayala.
Of course, the Ilonggo combo of Orendain and Ceballos will still be tasked to do a bulk of the scoring for the Lifesavers while the consistency of Araneta and Meneses will also be relied upon.
The onus will definitely be on Lavitoria's setting, but it appears that the former Ateneo de Manila reserve has fully grasped her role and will put her skills in motion in the AFC.
PLDT home FIBR Power Hitters
The PLDT home FIBR Power Hitters for that matter welcome back its collegians that helped head coach Roger Gorayeb attain a decent sixth place showing in last season's AFC during the transition phase from former mentors Ronald Dulay and Kung-Fu Reyes when the club was still under the banner of the Smart Gigahitters.
PSL fans already witnessed what Alvarez brings to the forefront for the Power Hitters and even teamed up with Soltones in the recently concluded Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup. Her insane athleticism and high volleyball IQ are the ingredients that Gorayeb looks for in his players. In fact the roster is devoid of mental weakness as he still parades the best libero of all-time in Gata-Pantone (16 career individual accolades) and Nabor, already ranking among the tops in setting efficiency in the league.
The acquisition last season of Urdas adds dependability in the opposite hitter's position while Soltones, who is now fully healed from the shoulder issues that plagued her 2018 season, is still among the most reliable wing attackers in all of women's volleyball.
Adding to the already potent mix are Malabanan, Cayuna and Carandang whose exploits in the past UAAP season has shown that their rise to stardom has already hit a crescendo and returning to Gorayeb's fold will only increase in maximizing the potential they already showed at the onset.
Malabanan, who has now fully embraced the timing and tenacity of being a full-time wing spiker, is touted to start with Soltones as her diagonal. This combination should be good for at least 30 points a game while Cayuna and Carandang (who is now moonlighting at the opposite hitter's role) can come in to infuse more power off the bench in critical situations.
The return of former Foton starter Casugod brings in more height at the net as this former national team reserve is among the tallest in the league and also contributes with timely blocks even against the best offensive threats in the PSL.
Once Singh is elevated to the active roster, Gorayeb has so many offensive weapons at his disposal and his winning system could be enough to make PLDT Home FIBR crash the playoff run of some of the more established clubs in the league.