Two years ago, Foton became the first ever franchise to win back-to-back Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix titles. Powered by Lindsay Stalzer and Ariel Usher, and drawing ammunition from the Santiago sisters, the Tornadoes chalked a rare two-peat Grand Prix, against Petron on both occasions.
But the Santiago sisters are now playing overseas, Rhea Dimaculangan and most of the local core have moved to other teams, and neither Stalzer nor Usher is returning. It has also been two years since they clutched a shimmering championship trophy.
Foton hopes this year would be different.
Raring to reclaim its glory, Foton will be swinging for the fences when it marches to the upcoming PSL Grand Prix 2019.
Now led by Maika Ortiz and Ivy Perez, the only holdovers from the 2015-16 champion lineup, the Blue Energy will storm their way to the eight-team field brimming with hunger and determination to end the drought.
The two-time champs’ campaign will be anchored to two seasoned foreign reinforcements in Courtney Felinski of USA and Selime Ilyasoglu of Turkey.
Felinski, a 26-year-old outside spiker, is expected to fill in much-needed numbers for Foton.
But Ilyasoglu is the real catch.
Following its trend of tapping blue-chip imports, the 30-year-old Ilyasoglu joined Stalzer, Serbia’s Sara Klisura and Trinidad and Tobago’s Courtney Thompson in Foton’s list of imports with vast international experience.
Ilyasoglu is no ordinary player after playing for elite teams Eczacibasi and Galatasaray and the Turkish national team from 2011-2012.
With Felinski and Ilyasoglu at the forefront of the charge, and Ortiz and Perez providing leadership, Foton is touted as a strong title contender.
They will be aided a local support system composed of former national team players in CJ Rosario, Gen Casugod and Jen Reyes with UE standout Shaya Adorador.
Adding firepower is new recruit Elaine Kasilag, who will be reunited with fellow ex-Pocari Sweat player Gyselle Sy, for Foton, who also has Carla Sandoval, Iumi Yongco and Kathleen Barrinuevo.
Calling the shots is head coach Aaron Velez together with assistant coaches Brian Esquibel and Edjet Mabbayad.
Foton’s first assignment is with United Volleyball Club on February 16, 4 p.m. at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City.
(Photo courtesy of Philippine Superliga Facebook page)