A showdown of power-hitting Thai imports heats up the hostilities in the 7th Shakey's V-League second conference as pre-tournament favorites San Sebastian-Excelroof and Ateneo clash for their third straight win and the solo lead this Thursday at The Arena in San Juan City.
Gametime is 6 p.m. with the spotlight expected to illuminate the face off between prolific Thai guest players.
The Perpetual Help Lady Altas and the National University Lady Bulldogs, the league's two new members, meanwhile, get the chance to test each others mettle as they collide at 2 p.m. shortly before the equally exciting Adamson University-Lyceum tiff at 4 p.m.
Perpetual, NU, Adamson and Lyceum are all tied for second on similar 1-1 slates, and victors in their respective matches will remain at second alongside the loser of the SSC-Ateneo clash.
Looking for their second title after a bridesmaid finish to six-time champ University of Santo Tomas in the previous conference, the Recto-based SSC spikers will parade Jaroensri Bualee, 26, a veteran and a former member of the Thailand national team.
In the hunt for their first ever title since joining the league in 2004, the Lady Eagles will be led by their sixth foreign reinforcement in Boonyuen Surasawadee, 19, a newcomer and a current Team B member of the Thailand national squad.
Both imports have shown their impressive scoring repertoire during their previous matches with Bualee, the league's 4th season first conference MVP, norming 19 hits a game and Surasawadee 18 per outing in the event backed by Mikasa, Accel, Excelroof and Shakey's Pizza.
Both SSC and Ateneo are coming off contrasting wins with the SSC belles easing past the winless St. Benilde Blazers (0-3) in straight sets last week and the Lady Eagles barely ecsaping the Lady Altas 25-15, 14-25, 20-25, 25-18, 15-12, on Sunday.
"We're not taking any team lightly especially Ateneo.We hope to continue our strong start with our intensified defense," said SSC coach Roger Gorayeb, whose squad has been installed the top favorite following the absence of UST.
While focus will be on the imports, the locals are also expected to share the limelight with Ateneo expected to get more from promising rookie and guest player Alyssa Valdez, a high school standout from UST, who pumped in 14 points, including a crucial spike that helped them prevail against the Altas.
Expected to back her up are Gretchen Ho, Denise Acevedo and Fille Cainglet, while SSC also pins its hopes on local players like guest player Suzanne Roces, Bamcie Belen and Analyn Benito.
The Altas, who will be spearheaded by Sandra Delos Santos and Ronerry Dela Cruz, are expected to encounter stiff resistance from the Francis Vicente-mentored Lady Bulldogs who are also aching to bounce back from a straight set defeat to the Lady Falcons last Sunday.
Francis Santiago, Manila Bulletin