The Premier Volleyball League finally gets to unveil its inaugural pro staging stalled for quite some time due to the global health crisis with three explosive matches kicking off hostilities in the Open Conference today (Saturday) at the PCV Socio-Civic Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.
Creamline, the winningest team with three championships in the last four conferences before play in the then semi-pro league was halted due to pandemic last year, parades its star-studded crew against a Sta. Lucia side out to make an immediate impact following its transfer from Superliga.
Bannered by crowd darlings Alyssa Valdez, Michele Gumabao and Jia Morado, the Cool Smashers test the Lady Realtors’ mettle in the 7 p.m. nightcap of a triple-bill that also features the Chery Tiggo-PLDT and Perlas-Cignal duels.
But Sta. Lucia also boasts of a slew of the country’s top players, led by Mika Reyes, Pam Lastimosa, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Jovie Prado, guaranteeing a slam-bang action right in the first day of the five-week tournament marking the return of the sport to the mainstream as the country’s first pro volley league.
The Chery Tiggo Crossovers tangle with the PLDT Home Fibr Power Hitters in the 1 p.m. opener with the former to be bannered by jaja Santiago, Gyzelle Sy, Mylene Paat, Maika Ortiz and Jasmine Nabor and the latter to anchor their campaign on the likes of Isa Molde, Rhea Dimaculangan, Nieza Viray and Toni Rose Basas.
The 3 p.m. clash between the Perlas Spikers and the Cignal HD Spikers also promises to be fierce and tight with Nicole Tiamzon, Sue Roces, Michelle Morente, Jhoanna Maraguinot and Cherry Nunag raring to slug it with the likes of Rachel Daquis, Cherry Vivas, Arielle Estranero, Janine Marciano and Klarrisa Abriam.
Meanwhile, the four other teams launch their respective bids tomorrow (Sunday) with the Petro Gazz Angels and the Army Lady Troopers colliding at 3 p.m. and the Bali Pure Water Defenders squaring off with the Choco Mucho Flying Titans at 6 p.m.
1st District Ilocos Norte Rep. Ria Fariñas and Gov. Matthew Manotoc are expected to grace the inaugurals along with organizing Sports Vision president Ricky Palou and league commissioner Tony Boy Liao.
“We’re very excited since this is the longest that we’ve been away from the competition, and from volleyball in general,” said Morado, one of the league’s leading playmakers. “I think the last few months of preparations have been very brutal not just on us but for everyone who are really going their best to prepare the best that they can for this tournament.”
While she was satisfied with how the team prepared, Valdez said she remains wary of the opposition, admitting every team has got what it takes to contend for the crown and the bragging rights as the first pro volley league champion.
“We have to watch out for every team,” said Valdez, singling out those who came from the former rival league. “Some teams also toughened up their respective rosters, so we really have to prepare for every team.”
Reyes, on the other hand, said she was relieved that the league finally gets to get going and at the same time be a part of its historic pro staging.
“I think all the teams have deep bench, particularly Creamline, whose roster remains intact,” said Reyes. “But just like any other team, our mindset is to be in top condition and be able to dish out our best in every game.”