Games on March 16
3 p.m. – Army vs F2 Logistics
6 p.m. – Chery Tiggo vs Cignal
Powerhouse F2 Logistics gears up for its much-awaited Premier Volleyball League debut against Army while Chery Tiggo kicks off its title-retention drive against Cignal HD in a pair of explosive matches marking the start of the PVL Open Conference on March 16 at the Paco Arena Events and Sports Center in Manila.
F2 Logistics is bringing its champion squad that ruled the PNVF Champions League via sweep late last year with the likes of Major Baron, Kianny Dy and Aby Maraño raring to lead the Cargo Movers to a big start against the veteran-laden Black Mamba Army Lady Troopers bannered by Jovelyn Gonzaga, Honey Rose Tubino and Jem Gutierrez.
Gametime is set at 3 p.m.
Chery Tiggo will also be coming into its 6 p.m. clash with Cignal brimming with confidence despite the absence of Jaja Santiago, who is still playing in Japan, with a solid roster led by Dindin Santiago and Mylene Paat and beefed up by former UST top hitter EJ Laure and role players May Luna, Necelle Gual and Julia Angeles.
Cignal, meanwhile, shored up its lineup with five new recruits, including Ces Molina, Jerrili Malabanan and Ria Meneses.
The Pro Crossovers stunned the fancied Creamline Cool Smashers to win the inaugural pro staging of the league under bubble setup in Ilocos Norte last year but failed to complete their breakthrough season with a loss to the Cargo Movers in the PNVF finals.
But what makes the second serving of the Open Conference, which drew nine teams, doubly interesting is that it will be held under a compact schedule with the champion to emerge just after four weeks, rendering all matches important and crucial.
Originally set over three months, the shortened calendar is to make way for the training of the national team building up for the Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam in May.
Completing the cast are Creamline, Choco Mucho, BaliPure, Petro Gazz and PLDT.
For the first time in the league’s storied staging, which dates back to 2004, a pool play setup will be employed with Chery Tiggo, F2 Logistics, Choco Mucho, Cignal and Army making up Group A and Group B made up of Creamline, Petro Gazz, PLDT and BaliPure.
League and organizing Sports Vision president Ricky Palou said the upcoming tournament will still be held in a semi-bubble system with no spectators allowed in line with the government’s health and safety measures. Besides, the Paco Arena could only accommodate around 300 fans.
After the single round elims, the top four in Group A and all four teams in Group B will advance to the knockout quarterfinals where the Nos. 1 and 2 teams will gain twice-to-beat edges.
With the lowering of Covid alert levels in the country, particularly in the NCR Plus, the league is pushing through with its three-conference offering this season featuring the Invitational and the Reinforced Conferences.
Meanwhile, Petro Gazz, led by former MVPs Myla Pablo and Grethcel Soltones, battles BaliPure, which toughened up by tapping eight new players, led by Jho Maraguinot and Marian Buitre to backstop a team spearheaded by Gyra Barroga, on March 17 with Creamline, boasting of aces like Alyssa Valdez, Jema Galanza and Jia Morado, tests the mettle of PLDT, whose bid is anchored on Rhea Dimaculangan, Chin Basas and Eli Soyud.
Choco Mucho, a young team due for a big finish behind Kat Tolentino, Maddie Madayag and Bea de Leon, debuts on March 18 against Army with F2 Logistics and Chery Tiggo colliding in an early test of will and power between two of the league’s fancied squads.