Stalzer, Niemer, Bell lead American import domination in PSL Grand Prix

An approaching tsunami of talented American spikers is expected to bring destruction when it hits the shorelines of the country in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix 2019.

A total of 10 powerful hitters from USA are billed to spawn top-of-the-line volleyball action when they suited up for the eight vying teams in the highly-vaunted import-flavored conference.

Leading the pack are the lethal duo of Stephanie Niemer from Kentucky and California’s Katherine Bell for the reigning champions Petron, who are both returning for their second tour of duty in the Philippines.

An early favorite to win the crown, the Blaze Spikers will be parading the Niemer-Bell open spiker duo, arguably the best import tandem this year as proven by their previous individual stints, as they shoot for a rare back-to-back feat.

Niemer and Bell have built their reputation as two of the most powerful imports who ever graced the country, with the former suiting up in the prestigious 2016 FIVB Women’s Club World Championship in Manila and the latter dropping a league second-best 42-point explosion last year.

Also bannering All-American reinforcements are the Sta. Lucia Lady Realtors as they acquired the services of middle blocker Molly Lohman of Minnesota and opposite Casey Schoenlein of Washington.

Lohman and Schoenlein are tipped to lead the Lady Realtors in their bid for redemption after a sorry All-Filipino Conference last year, finishing the all-local conference sans a win.

Likewise, coming from a dismal 2018 campaign are the Cocolife Asset Managers, who changed their name to United Volleyball Club.

Returning for UVC is Hawaiian outside spiker Tai Manu-Olevao, who led the squad to a fourth place finish in 2017. She will be pairing up with Yasmeen Bedart-Ghani, a wing spiker out of California.

Deciding to enlist at least one American import are the three dark horses of the tourney, Foton, Cignal and PLDT.

The only team who has achieved back-to-back Grand Prix titles, Foton tapped Courtney Felinski of Texas, who will wreak havoc from the left wings with former Turkish national team spiker Selime Ilyasoglu.

Still missing the services of the Santiago sisters, the Blue Energy battalion look to Felinski and Ilyasoglu to carry the scoring loaf for them.

One-half of Cignal’s imports also hailed from US, with outside hitter/middle blocker Erica Wilson joining force with Azerbaijan national team campaigner Anastasia Artameva.

With Jovelyn Gonzaga and Janine Marciano skipping anew as they look to recover from injuries, Erica and Wilson are expected to play big roles as the HD Spikers gun for their first ever Grand Prix and second overall PSL title.

Also brining in American skill set is Kendra Dahkle for PLDT Hime Fibr, formerly the Smart Giga Hitters.

The California-born spiker will work alongside Grace Lazard from England for PLDT, who last seen a podium finish during the PSL All Filipino Conference 2014.

But all eyes will be on the undisputed queen of all PSL imports, Lindsay Stalzer from Illinois.

The three-time champion and two-time MVP is heading for her sixth straight PSL stint, this time powering her former team Petron’s biggest rival F2 Logistics.

Stalzer, together with American-naturalized Italian Rebecca Perry, hopes to steer the Cargo Movers to their fourth PSL title, looking to avenge their Finals loss last year.

Generika Ayala meanwhile, is the only team who will not parade an American import as it connects with Nikolle del Rio from Brazil and Kseniya Kocyigit from Azerbaijan.

Del Rio and Kyocigit will be at the helm of the Lifesavers’ charge as they aim to snap a four-year championship drought.

The local reinforcements will have their first swing when the Grand Prix opens on February 16.
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