Grethcel Soltones returns to lift Smart in PSL opener

MANILA, Philippines – Reigning champion Petron and Smart had a roaring start as they clobbered their respective foes in emphatic fashion in the opening salvo of the Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference on Tuesday, October 30, at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

The Blaze Spikers crushed the young Cocolife squad, 25-18, 25-15, 25-18, while the Giga Hitters flirted with disaster before hammering a 25-20, 25-19, 25-23 victory to set their title-retention bid into motion.

Aiza Maizo Pontillas finished with 14 points while Ces Molina, who recovered from a stress fracture injury to contribute 10 markers and 14 digs for the Blaze Spikers, who looked prepared and ready to win in the prestigious club tourney.

Meanwhile, Cocolife Filipino-American recruit Kalei Mau debuted with 13 points and 11 digs.

But all eyes were on the Giga Hitters.

After a long hiatus, Grethcel Soltones announced her arrival in style as she provided the spark for Smart, parading the core of the squad that saw action in the rival league.

Soltones, the former San Sebastian College star, delivered a game-high 17 points to practically dominate the spike department.

“I’m very happy to be back after one year,” said Soltones, who was part of the national team that saw action in the AVC Asian Women’s Cup in early October.

“We’re very happy to play in a high-level tournament.”

Smart broke loose from a 19-all contest in the 3rd set as it scored 5 straight points to reach match point, 24-19.

Sta Lucia threatened within one, 23-24, but Soltones launched a powerful attack for the game-winner.

Smart coach Roger Gorayeb, who’s also back in the league after 5 years, played down their rousing start.

“I’m happy with the win. We’ve prepared for this and I want all of my players to gain confidence as early as today,” he said.

Team captain Pam Lastimosa finished with 8 points for Sta Lucia, which is marching in the tourney with a couple of key players in sick bay, including Chinchin Basas and Filipino-American star MJ Philips. –