With the inaugural pro volley tournament served out, the organizing Sports Vision is working on a better, trouble-free staging when the next Premier Volleyball League conference is held later this year.
While the just-concluded Open Conference was far from being ideal given the prevailing Covid-19 conditions and quarantine restrictions, its staging in a “bubble” setup was par for the course with Sports Vision to build on its gains to ensure a smoother conduct of the tournament the next time around.
“We’re happy we’re able to hold it successfully,” said Sports Vision president Ricky Palou. “With God’s mercy, we survived all the challenges. Besides, all teams were very cooperative. They made sure the players were kept safe. So everything worked out well.”
Palou also thanked the Ilocos Norte government, particularly Gov. Matthew Manotoc, for hosting the launch of the country’s first pro volley league although the tournament had to be moved from the Centennial Arena in Laoag City to the PCV Socio-Civic and Cultural Center in Bacarra due to the surge of coronavirus cases in the provincial capital.
But as the highly contagious Delta variant ushers in another deadly wave, Sports Vision was forced to further compress the five-week schedule towards the end of the elims to the finals to meet the Aug. 16 deadline before the host province is placed under ECQ.
“We discussed the issue with the teams, which in turn agreed to finish the whole thing,” said Palou. “So, we decided to do away with the rest day(s) to comply with the time limits.”
The tight schedule, however, took its toll on some teams, particularly Choco Mucho, whose key player Maddie Madayag suffered a knee injury following a bad landing during Game One of their best-of-three series for third with Petro Gazz.
The team skipper took to social media to air her sentiments and frustrations.
“It is unfortunate that despite the intensive strengthening and training done prior to the league had to be negated all because of a rushed schedule,” said Madayag, who also sustained an ACL tear in 2016, in her post. “It pains me to have incurred such a heartbreaking injury when all I did before the competition was to take care of my body to avoid getting hurt.”
Injuries have been few and far between during the course of the month-long bubble tournament. Other injuries incurred were minor, namely Jeanette Panaga of Creamline (ankle), Shola Alvarez of PLDT (ankle), and Rachel Daquis of Cignal (groin).
Despite this, Madayag expressed her gratitude to the league organizers, saying: “This conference was truly difficult to organize and fully plan out given the current situation of our country and I am grateful for those who made the effort so that the games would push through.”
Chery Tiggo outlasted Creamline in the fifth set of their winner-take-all match in a fitting ending to a gruelling five-week battle not just of power, blocking and floor defense but also of stamina and mental toughness with the organizers revelling in the high level of competition among 10 teams of varying strengths and characters.
“There were a lot of surprises. Most games were unpredictable,” said Palou, citing Chery Tiggo’s surprise loss to BaliPure before the Crossovers settled down and made the semis and the finals and eventually won the championship.
“We’re glad that the teams managed to stay in shape and compete very well. That’s what mattered most,” added Palou while also taking notice of the league’s tremendous audience pull via One Sports’ live broadcast of the games via One Sports+ on Cignal TV’s on-air and digital platforms.