A pair of top-notch matches, featuring first conference champion Ateneo and fancied Maynilad, kicks off the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference Sunday at The Arena in San Juan with both teams going all out in a match tipped to go down-to-the-wire.
The Lady Eagles, who beat the Adamson Lady Falcons for their first championship in the country’s premier women’s volley league, hope to start out strong and build the proverbial momentum and confidence they need against a talent-laden Maynilad squad.
Maynilad, which tapped Joy Cases as its guest player, is one of the four non-school teams vying in the tournament, a rung higher than the previous school-oriented conferences of the annual league in terms of talent and competitiveness. The three others are Navy, Air Force and Army.
San Sebastian, winner in the 2008 second conference of the league, and Perpetual Help are the two other school squads in the seven-team tournament serving as a pilot project designed to establish a commercial league and further raise the level of play in women’s volley.
The Lady Stags battle the Air Force side in the 2 p.m. opener of the league while the Lady Eagles test the Maynilad spikers’ mettle in the 4 p.m. main game.
Competition is expected to fierce with the top six teams after a single round robin elims advancing to the quarterfinal round. The top four squads after another round robin will move to the semis with the No. 1 team facing off the No. 4 squad and the Nos. 2 and 3 teams clashing in a pair of best-of-three series for the final berths.
Matches can also be viewed on live streaming via www.v-league.ph.
Meanwhile, the league is again offering a “Bring a Friend” promo where a purchase of one lower box ticket will entitle one to bring along a friend for free. Ticket prices are pegged at P200 for ringside, P150 for lower box and P30 for general admission.
Former stars of various schools actually banner Maynilad where they are now employed, including Charisse Ancheta, Joanna Marie dela Pena, Nica Guliman, Melissa Mirasol, Mervic Mangui, Margarita Pepito and Syvie Artates, making the squad an all-star cast.
Ancheta was the league’s best setter in 2007 and helped SSC win the NCAA three-peat from 2006 and the Shakey’s V-League 2008 plum; Dela Pena was WNCAA’s two-time best libero as member of Lyceum’s five-peat squad; Guilman, another former Lyceum mainstay, was V-League’s best blocker in 2010 and currently a member of the national team;
Mirasol, another SSC product, won the best blocker award in the NCAA in 2009-10 and an Outstanding Athlete of the Year awardee in 2009; Manqui, an open spiker, was National U’s skipper last year and UAAP’s second top scorer in 2009; Pepito was SSC’s former top receiver and digger who bagged the MVP plum in the MVP Cup in last year; and Artates was Lyceum’s former team captain and winner of the best blocker and best server awards in the WNCAA in 2008-09.
But Ateneo remains solid on a team built around Alyssa Valdez, Gretchen Ho, Dzi Gervacio, Mona Bagatsing, Jem Ferrer, Fille Cainglet and Bea Tan with Leal Patnongon backstopping the squad.
Two former MVPs will anchor Air Force’s bid in the tournament with Cherry Macatangay and Aiza Maizo along with fellow guest player Jen Manzano leading the team that includes Chris Latigay, Wendy Semana, Fatima Esteban, Liza Deramos and Amy Guanco.
SSC, meanwhile, will pin its hopes on Dafna Robiños, Joy Benito, Czarina Berbano, Mae Crisostomo, Ara Mallare, Bea Uy and guest players Jennifer Salgado and Rubie de Leon.
Army, led by Rachel Daquis and Maiah Manukay and sisters Michelle and Mayeth Carolino, Navy, bannered by Nene Bautista and Suzanne Roces, and Perpetual Help, headed by Giza Yumang and April Sartin, see action Tuesday.