Nation's longest-running volleyball tourney ties up with ABS-CBN

ABS-CBN Sports on Jun 27, 2016 03:16 PM
V-League partners with ABS-CBN
V-League ties up with ABS-CBN. (photo by Nante Azures)

The 13th season of Shakey’s V-League, unarguably the nation’s longest-running women’s volleyball tournament, is on, parading a bumper crop of younger, prettier, talented and more exciting players -- and a fresh tie-up with giant television network ABS-CBN.       

Starting this year, league founder and organizer Sports Vision Management Group, Inc. will attempt to present the pioneering single-sport league that began in 2004 as a mature product ready to compete for media attention with the big boys of sports led by basketball.

“The V-League has already established itself as a tournament rich in substance, having spawned over the years the brightest names in local women’s volleyball who individually command tremendous and fiercely loyal following. Now is the time to give it a more distinctive form that is all at once youngish, hip and cool to attract a new generation of fans,” said Sports Vision newly-appointed general manager Cito Martelino, son of league creator and founder Moying Martelino.      

The tie-up with ABS-CBN, the younger Martelino added, will greatly help widen the already huge fan base of the V-League. All the games every Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are aired live from  4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on ABS-CBN Sports + Active channel (Channel 23 in Metro Manila and in some parts of Luzon) and from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Free TV Channel 17 and HDTV Channel 166.          

Toward fostering more fan interaction with their favorite teams and idols, the V-League, following the parade of the eight competing teams and declaration of opening of the 13th season  by Sports Vision chairman Ricky Palou, yielded the court to the fans on May 22 at the newly-refurbished Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan in a fun-filled first-day program that radically veered from tradition.

No matches were scheduled that Saturday; only fun games were which had fans team up with players in contests that also tested their ball-handling skills. The lucky ones went home with prizes – and prized selfies with their volleyball idols.


Star-studded cast      

Making up this year’s cast in the opening Conference of the Shakey’s V-League are the Bali Pure Water Defenders led by Alyssa Valdez, the Baguio Summer Spikers, the City of Iriga Lady Oragons,  the Phil. Air Force Lady Jet Spikers, the Michelle Gumabao-bannered Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors, the Laoag City Power Smashers, the National University Lady Bulldogs, and the University of the Philippines Lady Fighting Maroons. Joining the V-League for the first time in any of its three Conferences are Bali Pure, Iriga, Pocari Sweat, and Laoag. No less than Ateneo coach Tai Bundit, architect of the Lady Blue Eagles’ back-to-back UAAP titles, is mentoring the team.       

Bali Pure is debuting in grand fashion at it reunites Ateneo’s more renowned UAAP graduates headed by Valdez, last year’s MVP who powered PLDT Home Ultera to the Open Conference championship against Phil. Army. With her on the Water Defender’ lineup are, among others,  former Lady Eagles Amy Ahomiro, Charo Soriano, Dennise Lazaro, Ella de Jesus, Jamenea Ferrer, Bea Tan, Mae Tajima, and Karla Bello. NCAA MVP Gretchel Soltones and power-hitting Janine Marciano are also on the team.      

Like Valdez, Soriano, de Jesus, Ferrer, and Marciano were also with the PLDT champion squad last season.

Fresh UAAP graduate Myla Pablo of NU are joining forces with Gumabao and Melissa Gohing, both former key players of De La Salle University-Manila, as spearheads of Pocari Sweat. Providing them supporting firepower are ex-Lady Bulldogs Siemens Dadang and Maricar Nepomuceno, Elaine Kasilag, another member of the PLDT champion team, Lutgarda Malaluan, and former FEU Lady Tamaraws Rose Vargas and setter Gyselle Sy.      

Philippine Air Force has added more muscles to its offensive might with the addition of Dell Palomata, an exciting, six-foot-three discovery from Bacolod. The Lady Jet Spikers boast of battle-tested veterans in Judy Ann Caballero, Joy Cases, Iari Yongco, May Ann Pantino, Jennifer Manzano and court-leader Wendy Semana.       

Returning coach Nes Pamilar and multi-awarded setter Chi Saet, who had helped DLSU-Manila to a string of UAAP titles, will attempt to transform Laoag City’s younger but highly talented players into a cohesive, title-worthy unit. Much is pinned on the shoulders of Adamson University’s trio of highly dependable players – Mylene Paat, Jessica Gallanza, and Feneta Emnas – and Jovielyn Grace Prado, the rising star of past NCAA titlist Arellano University.


Early UAAP training 

Both NU and UP are fielding UAAP-eligible lineups in early preparations for their mother league which this year, in a stunning reversal of fortunes, saw the Lady Maroons  crash into and the Lady Bulldogs crash out of the UAAP Final Four which was eventually topped by the DLSU Lady Spikers.    

The Lady Bulldogs’ team composition springs some surprises with the addition of Fil-Japanese Risa Sato, who used to play for Ateneo as guest player, and the conversion of Jasmine Nabor from  open spiker to setter, replacing Rica Diolan who was reportedly axed from the lineup. Emphasis on UAAP eligibility explains why NU let go of Pablo, who’s now with Pocari Sweat. Six-foot-five Jaja Santiago, Jorelle Singh, and Sato provide the 1-2-3 punch for coach Roger Gorayeb’s charges.     

UP’s exposure in last year’s V-League Collegiate and Reinforced Conferences had, according to team manager Cecile Ronquillo, tremendously prepared the Lady Fighting Maroons for the last UAAP season, where for the first time in so many years they made the Final Four and finished ahead of NU, University of Santo Tomas, Adamson, and University of the East.

From being picked Player of the Game a few times in the 12th season of V-League, Cebuana Isa Molde, one of coach Jerry Yee’s most exciting fresh discoveries then along with Diana Mae Carlos of Pampanga and Justine Dorog also of Cebu City, went on to bag the UAAP Rookie of the Year award last season. Providing the stabilizing and leadership factors for the Diliman squad  are Katherine Bersola, Nicole Tiamzon and Marian Buitre.

The Summer Spikers from Baguio led by Krissian Tsuchiya are back driven by their passion for the sport. They are reportedly still passing the hat around  to raise the funds needed  mainly for their transport to and from the summer capital of the country. Eight of them are returnees from the last season and half of them, to further cut down on expenses, make up the coaching and training staff themselves.    

And last but not the least, make way for the Lady Oragons of the City of Iriga  here in their first ever appearance in any V-League to get the Bicol region started on the road back to past acclaim as the Philippines’ richest breeding ground of national athletes in both men’s and women’s volleyball. These Bicolanos are extremely blessed for not finding themselves on the same boat as the Baguio Summer Spikers. 

All they need to do are train hard, keep healthy, and play their best – and playing manager Madelaine Gazmen will take care of the rest, according to coach Elvis Pabilonia. Gazmen is only the newly-elected mayor of Iriga, a position she had held previously for three straight terms, thank you. Together with Pabilonia, who had served the men’s national teams for 12 years, the Iriga City mayor, an out-and-out volleyball fan and player, hopes to bring back the glorious years of the Bicol region in the sport.

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