2:30 p.m. – Cignal HD vs Army
5:30 p.m. – Choco Mucho
vs Chery Tiggo
Coaches of the seven local squads priming up for the Premier Volleyball League Invitationals all agree the battle will be tight and fierce with no team holding a distinct advantage over the other when the mid-season conference is fired off Saturday at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
While Cignal HD mentor Shaq delos Santos guarantees his wards’ readiness after losing steam in the stretch of the PVL Open Conference, he said his team is all geared up for a duel of power and style with the best and the brightest.
“We prepared hard for this conference, so you may consider us as one of the teams to beat. But all teams have also toughened up, so it will all depend on game-situations,” said delos Santos, whose HD Spikers have lorded it over the field in pool play and in the quarterfinals of the season-opening conference before blowing a 1-0 lead and eventually bowing to the Petro Gazz Angels in their best-of-three semifinal series.
“But it will be fierce since everybody would want to win given the single round elims format. We really have to dish out our best since only four (teams) will advance,” he added.
Unlike in previous conference which featured pool plays, all seven teams are grouped in one in the Invitationals with the top four teams advancing to the next stage where Japan’s Kobe Shinwa Women’s University and Chinese-Taipei’s Taipei King Whales will join the qualifiers in another round-robin competition.
“All teams are intact and have leveled up, so I guess everybody has a chance,” said Choco Mucho coach Oliver Almadro. “So we really have to be fit and focused given the high level of competition.”
Cignal HD faces Army Black Mamba in the 2:30 p.m. opener while Choco Mucho clashes with Chery Tiggo at 5:30 p.m.
Games will be aired live on One Sports (free to Air Ch 41 and Cignal CH 6) and One Sports+ (Cignal Ch 91 SD, Ch 261 HD) with both channels also available on Cignal’s OTT Platform, Cignal Play, with video on demand also available on the platform.
Matches can also be streamed on social media application KUMU and on the league’s official website pvl.ph.
Livestream of the games will also be accessible on Smart GigaPlay, a platform exclusively for Smart subscribers.All the games will be played at the San Juan venue except for the July 23 playdate pitting Creamline against Choco Mucho at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
Meanwhile, the league will have a press conference with social media platform KUMU on Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Infinity Ballroom of F1 Hotel Manila in Global City, Taguig.
“Expect this conference to be exciting and we’d like to invite everybody to watch the games live,” said PVL and organizing Sports Vision president Ricky Palou, stressing that health measures will be put in place in case the alert level in the National Capital Region is raised during the conference.
PLDT coach George Pascua, for his part, said it will be anybody’s race even as he assured the High Speed Hitters’ fans of their all-out effort to improve on their fifth-place finish in the Open Conference.
“Basta kami, in God’s grace and will. Volleyball is very unpredictable. Sometimes, you would play good in the first round but would struggle in the next. But in this conference, everybody has a chance.”
While Petro Gazz coach Arnold Laniog considers Creamline as the toughest of the lot for its solid roster, the one-grouping in the elims will more than gauge the strength of each team.
“Creamline is intact and has been playing as one for years but this time, the format gives all teams the opportunity to play each other and test each other’s strength,” said Laniog.