Rebuild and rise: Sta. Lucia eyes breakthrough PSL campaign

Sta. Lucia has been trying to build a name for itself for years.

Ever since they burst into the Philippine SuperLiga (PSL) scene in 2017, the Lady Realtors have constantly rebuilt themselves looking for the perfect composition that will give them the elusive PSL title.

Looking at the team’s record, Sta. Lucia has yet to find that mix as, just last season, it finished last in the Grand Prix and 7th and 6th out of 8 squads in the All Filipino and Invitationals Cup, respectively.

This, amid its continuous efforts to bring in young talents and veterans alike to beef up its chances in the highly-vaunted league.

This year, Lady Realtors revamped anew — parting ways with former head coach Babes Castillo for newly-minted mentor Eddieson Orculllo, letting go some of its longtime players like Becca Rivera and welcoming a fresh batch of recruits.

It was the same old song with the same old verse for Sta. Lucia: rebuild, rebuild, rebuild.

But this time, they hope it will be a different chorus.

RECRUITMENT COUP

As it has yet to reach Finals or semifinals for that matter, what Sta. Lucia lacks is championship experience. And so the Realtors kicked off their recruitment coup by acquiring the services of multi-champion middle blocker Mika Reyes.

Reyes took a leap of faith, packed her bags from the decorated Petron camp and transferred to the green-and-white as, in her own words, she loves to push herself to the limit.

It was a bold decision for someone who has almost always played for gold medal contender teams throughout her volleyball career. On the contrary, it is a welcome development for Sta. Lucia to have someone with vast championship experience manning its middle fort.

The Lady Realtors did not stop there as they also picked up Honey Royse Tubino, Bang Pineda, Marge Tejada, Aiesha Gannaban and Fil-Am Jessica Vestal while welcoming Djanel Cheng back to the fold. Like Reyes, Tubino, Pineda, Gannaban, and Cheng all have championship experiences.

Tubino is part of Cignal’s champion squad in the 2017 PSL Invitationals Cup as Pineda manned the floor when Petron claimed that same year’s All Filipino title.

Gannaban is a gold medalist as well with the University of the Philippines in the 2018 PSL Collegiate Grand Slam. Cheng, who played for Sta. Lucia during its debut season orchestrated PetroGazz first-ever championship run in the rival league last year.

HOLDOVERS

Sta. Lucia bade goodbye to a handful of names like Jho Maraguinot, Souzan Raslan, Micmic Laborte, Rachel Austero, Roselle Baliton, Rica Rivera, Juliet Catindig and Rivera.

While some of its long-time players decided to shift gears, Sta. Lucia will not altogether start from scratch.

Leading the returnees are MJ Phillips, Pam Lastimosa, Rubie de Leon, Alex Bollier, Glaudine Troncoso, Andrea Marzan, and Amy Ahomiro along with beach volleyball duo Jackie Estoquia and DM Demontano.

Their return will lighten the load for Orcullo, who formerly served as an assistant coach, as he tries to bridge the team’s old system to its new one.

HELP FROM CANADA

On top of Sta. Lucia’s efforts for the upcoming 2020 PSL Grand Prix is bringing in Canadian ace Shainah Joseph.

Joseph, 24, is a 6-foot wing hitter from the University of Florida who was hailed NCAA Division 1 Gainesville Regional MVP and All-America Second Team in 2017.

She was part of the Canadian women’s volleyball national team that saw action in the 2018 FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship, where they finished

Joseph is tipped to carry most of the load for Sta. Lucia together with Reyes, Phillips and Tubino.

Will Sta. Lucia’s constant rebuilding process finally end this time around?

(Image from Facebook/Philippine SuperLiga)

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