Every season, the Philippine SuperLiga (PSL) Grand Prix introduced a batch of high caliber foreign players to the Filipino volleyball community. Most of the time, at least one or two imports from that batch emerge as the cream of the crop.
In 2014, there was American Lindsay Stalzer, who will, later on, become the most decorated and most in-demand import in the league. There’s Sara Klisura and her Serbian-made hitting prowess in 2017.
Of course, who could forget the 56-point scorer Gyselle Silva from Cuba in 2018. Silva is arguably the most dominant import ever to set foot not just in the league but in the whole country.
It was almost like a tradition.
And this year, the great reinforcement club might be welcoming a new member with the arrival of Tatjana Bokan.
Out of the eight foreigners for this year’s import-flavored conference, Bokan has the most impressive portfolio experience-wise.
Since the beginning of her professional career in 2004, the 31-year old outside hitter from Montenegro has suited up for eight countries namely her home country, Serbia, Italy, France, Japan, Azerbaijan, Hungary, and China.
In Japan, Bokan campaigned for the eventual champions Hisamitsu Springs in the 2015-2016 season of the Japanese V.Premiere League.
Just last season, the 6-foot-1 tower took her talents to China for Zhejiang, which finished 9th out of 14 teams. Impressively, she averaged 15.10 markers per match in the Chinese Volleyball League.
Excluding returnees Stalzer, Bell and Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani of Cignal, Bokan’s stint in China arguably makes her a cut above the rest of the newcomers.
Lucky enough for the Chery Tiggo Crossovers, they will not be at the receiving end of the Montenegrin ace’s firepower.
Chery Tiggo is formerly the two-time Grand Prix champions Foton Tornadoes before their rebranding this year.
In 2015 and 2016, Foton ruled the import-laden conference behind a star-studded local line-up backed by a pair of powerful foreign reinforcements.
After barely making it to the semifinals of the 2015 edition, the Tornadoes pulled the rug from under Phillips Gold Lady Slammers in their five-set semis clash. The Stalzer-led troop then nipped Petron during the best-of-three Finals en route to its first-ever PSL title.
Foton reloaded the following year, this time with the likes of Sisi Rondina, Rhea Dimaculangan, Maika Ortiz, Dindin Santiago-Manabat, and Ej Laure entering the fold. Stalzer and Jaja Santiago also returned as American hitter Ariel Usher joined the squad who later on emerged as back-to-back Grand Prix titlist.
But that seems like a distant memory now.
For the past three years, F2 Logistics and Petron have ruled the import-flavored tournament, with the former taking the 2017 crown as the latter bagged the next two.
Foton, meanwhile, settled for bronze for two straight seasons before completely missing the semifinals last year.
This year, though, Chery Tiggo is aiming for a different script.
The goal remains the same: to end a three-year title drought and redeem themselves after a 7th place finish last season.
The Crossovers retained most of the team’s 2019 lineup with Shaya Adorador, Gyselle Sy, Elaine Kasilag, Maika Ortiz, Lai Bendong, Arianne Layug, Mariane Buitre, and Jen Reyes.
The Aaron Velez-mentored squad also recruited the national team opposite Mylene Paat and prized setter Jasmine Nabor along with Janine Navarro, Rachel Austero and Joy Dacoron.
Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat, meanwhile, could also return to the team once their Japanese clubs release them.
Finally, Chery Tiggo capped its redemption campaign with the acquisition of Bokan.
With Bokan on the lead, can the Crossovers complete the job and win this year’s Grand Prix? Or will it be just another heartbreak for them?
(Photo from Instagram/Tatjana Bokan)