Picking Chery: New Crossovers stars build case as PSL contenders | Inquirer Sports

Picking Chery: New Crossovers stars build case as PSL contenders

/ 04:25 AM February 29, 2020

The Chery Tiggo Crossovers are ready for the tough road ahead.

Tatjana Bokan had heard a lot about Philippine volleyball from a former coach. So it’s not surprising the 31-year-old veteran internationalist blended in easily with her teammates.

The Chery Tiggo Crossovers’ import arrived here a month before the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix kicks off on Saturday and the Montenegrin open spiker said she has an idea of what to expect from her new team.

A lot of fight. A lot of wai­ting for two key stars to arrive. And then perhaps finding a­nother gear when everything falls into place in the playoffs.

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“They received me warmly and the whole team feel like family,” Bokan said.

Immediately, she also rea­lized that she will be the leader of a very young team that will begin its title hunt with two vital cogs unable to see action. Sisters Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat are still competing abroad and will only join the squad come playoff time.

Pedigree

But Bokan has the pedigree to provide Chery with much needed torque for the early haul of the tournament. She has, after all, reinforced several pro clubs in European and Asian leagues.

“She’s the type of teammate who reminds you right away when you keep on committing the same mistakes,” said teammate, 22-year-old Shaya Adorador in Filipino. “She provides leadership in that sense.”

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Chery Tiggo coach Aaron Velez said that because Bokan can speak English well, “she can freely say what’s on her mind and that’s crucial in building communications.”

Modifications

The Crossovers recently played a tuneup game with a champion team from a rival club league. And from that match, Bokan knows exactly what modifications are needed for Chery.

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“There is a lot of small things [we have to improve on] like we have to still build connection between our receivers and setters,” Bokan said. “But we’re trying. Every day we do that.”

For example: Her connection with top setter Jasmine Nabor, Chery Tiggo’s main offense navigator, still has room for improvement.

“I’m used to playing with tall setters, but I don’t mind, we are working on it and we will find connection and be 100 percent for the playoffs,” Bokan said.

The Crossovers are in the midst of rebuilding, bringing in several new faces led by national team opposite hitter Mylene Paat to the fold.

“I guess as a team we have big potential, we have the talents and this early I know we have chemistry,” Paat said. “But how we translate it into wins depends on us.”

Mylene Paat (top) and Tatjana Bokan are the two new reinforcements for Chery Tiggo.

Paat isn’t the only new face Chery Tiggo will flaunt. Nabor, Rachel Austero, Janine Navarro and Mary Joy Dacoron joined the Crossovers in the preseason. They will reinforce a team that features Eya Laure, Laizah Bendong, Marian Buitre, Elaine Kasilag, Arianne Layug, Jen Reyes and Gyzelle Sy.

Formerly known as the Foton Tornadoes, the Crossovers are looking to end a four-year title drought for the franchise.

And between the buildup and a championship are a lot of moving parts that still need a few more tuneups—and adjustments.

New format

“This is the first time I play this system where teams play two parts and in the end everyone still makes it to the playoffs,” Bokan said.

She was referring to the Grand Prix format where the classification phase will be used merely to determine the ranking for the knockout playoffs.

Somehow that seems to make the first part not very important, according to Bokan. “But we will use that to build up our chemistry and build up our game and be ready for the playoffs,” she said.

That format could prove beneficial for the Crossovers because it buys them time before the towering Santiago sisters arrive from their Japan League stints.

April return

The 6-foot-4 Santiago is playing for Saitama Ageo Medics, while her sister, 6-foot-2 Manabat, suits up for Kurobe AquaFairies.

They are slated to come back from Japan in April when the first phase of the Grand Prix is nearing its end.

Jaja Santiago will join the team after her stint in Japan.

It seems like an understatement, but Velez said it’s a big help when the sisters are back to provide additional horsepower for Chery. In the meantime “everyone has to step up. Whoever is inside the court should give their 100 percent.”

Right now, Velez said, the immediate goal is to “win games.”

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Velez’s game plan was very apparent: Pile up wins. Hold the line. Wait for the cavalry.

And hopefully, when help arrives, Chery Tiggo can make a decisive cruise toward that championship crown the franchise hasn’t tasted in a long while.

TAGS: Chery Tiggo Crossovers, Philippine Superliga, PSL, Sports, Volleyball

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