Shakey’s V-League Open: new alliances, new rivalries

I’ve decided to end my burnout from writing one thousand word pieces for the entire duration of the recently concluded FIBA-Asia Championship. I believe it’s all in the mind and although this was the best one of all the four FIBA-Asia tournaments I’ve ever done, the whole experience fried my brains—and my voice, especially during the Gold Medal match. I'll just say, it's all for flag and country. Congrats again to Gilas Pilipinas for making it to 2014 FIBA World Cup via their Silver Medal finish in the biennial meet.

As we are days away from the longest conference of the tenth season of the country’s premier volleyball league, let’s take a glimpse at what to expect come this Sunday, August 18th. The early line-ups I got from Shakey’s V-League (SVL) stats guru—and former fellow FIBA-Asia Local Organizing Committee (LOC) member—Sherwin Malonzo shows a lot of familiar names forming new alliances which makes for a scintillating set of tiffs.

First, let’s meet the eight participating teams this conference:

Eight teams, one goal: welcome to the 2013 Shakey's V-League Open Conference
  • Cagayan Valley
  • Far Eastern University
  • Meralco
  • Philippine Air Force
  • Philippine Army
  • Philippine Navy
  • Philippine National Police
  • Smart

The format will have all eight teams going up against each other in a single round robin affair—which will see the preliminary round go all the way to September 17th; that’s almost a month of matches. The top six squads that emerge from the prelims will advance to the quarterfinals which will be another single round to determine the top four teams. The progressing teams will carry its win-loss record from the first round of eliminations into the quarters, so every game has bearing. The semifinals will have the Final Four engaging in a crossover best-of-three series to reveal the two finalists. The finals will also be a best-of-three contest. The conference is slated to conclude on October 20th, if all series go the full route.

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Looking at the first returns of the official rosters, I have one tip for you: forget the alliances you saw during the Philippine Super Liga (PSL) Invitational.

I don’t see more than five people remaining teammates, except, of course, for the inaugural PSL titlists Lady Troopers. Most of the players that comprised, say, Bingo Milyonaryo now find themselves scattered to Cagayan Valley, Meralco and Navy. The core of what was Petron is now spread across four teams. What is intriguing for those following the Ateneo-La Salle collegiate rivalry is that known archenemies like Fille Cainglet and Stephanie Mercado are now playing together on one team, while Ateneo wunderkind Alyssa Valdez now finds herself sharing floor space with the libero who made sure to get to almost all her shots in the UAAP Finals, Melissa Gohing. Also, I bet you never thought that Chi Saet could ever be setting for Aiza Maizo, while Maizo’s favourite setter Rhea Dimaculangan will now be delivering the goods for former collegiate rival Anna Abanto of FEU.

Anna Abanto sees action again after an almost 5-year hiatus (Photo: www.pinoyexchange.com)

That’s the mystique the SVL Open brings. The stalwarts that once made up that UST juggernaut are now divided over four teams with Maizo and Angge Tabaquero seeing action for Cagayan Valley while Dimaculangan, Ortiz and Judy Caballejo strut their stuff for Air Force. Crowd darling Maru Banaticla unites with reigning Finals MVP Rubie de Leon and Mary Jean Balse once again represents Army. PSL MVP Venus Bernal is so far not on any roster, but there are allegedly at least three teams trying to sign her before Sunday. In fact, many line-ups are still incomplete and the race is on to acquire the services of notable free-agents out there to spruce up their respective campaigns. Some of the hottest names who have yet to be signed are Michele Gumabao, Gretchen Ho, Royse Tubino and Pau Soriano. I’m sure the scamper will come to a riveting climax come opening day and perhaps beyond.

Here are the partial and official line-ups as of today (August 15):

CAGAYAN VALLEY—Nes Pamilar

#2  Angge Tabaquero

#3  Jheck Dionela

#5  Rosemarie Vargas

#6  Leuseht Dawis

#8  Aiza Maizo

#9  Kannika Thipachot

#10 Sandra de los Santos

#11 Phomla Soraya

#12 Joy Benito

#15 Wenneth Eulalio

#17 Chi Saet


FEU—Shaq de los Santos

#1  Christine Agno

#2  Bernadeth Pons

#3  Marie Simborio

#4  Toni Basas

#5  Glayssa Torres

#6  Richelle Bagang

#7  Genevieve Casugod

#8  Samantha Dawson

#9  Remy Palma

#10 Yna Papa

#11 Ilana Atienza

#12 Gyzelle Sy

Gyzelle Sy is now the senior veteran of the Lady Tamaraws (Photo: Kevin de la Cruz/Rivals.ph)

MERALCO—Oliver Alamdro

#1  April Jose

#2  Roma Hofileña

#3  Ma. Concepcion de Guzman

#4  LC Girly Quemada

#5  Karla Bello

#7  Shedd de la Peña

#8  Zharmaine Velez

#9  Maica Morada

#10 Maureen Penetrante-Ouano

#11 Ivy Remulla

#12 Jen Reyes

#14 Stephanie Mercado

#15 Fille Cainglet


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PAF—Clarence Esteban

#1  Rhea Dimaculangan

#2  Joy Cases

#3  Mariel Legaspi

#4  Iari Yongco

#5  Mary Ann Balmaceda

#6  Mary Ann Pantino

#7  Wendy Semana

#8  Jen Manzano

#9  Judy Caballejo

#10 Maika Ortiz

#11 Liza de Ramos

#12 Ana Abanto

#14 Gena Andaya


PA—Rico de Guzman

#1  Genie Sabas

#2  Sha-Sha Siatan-Torres

#3  Joanne Bunag

#4  Mayeth Carolino

#5  Mary Jean Balse

#6  Jacqueline Alarca

#7  Tina Salak

#8  Jovelyn Gonzaga

#9  Michelle Carolino

#10 Angela Nunag

#11 Dahlia Cruz

#12 Ers Iratay

#13 Rachel Anne Daquis

#14 Nerissa Bautista

This September, Chel Daquis reinforces the Lady Troopers anew (Photo: www. pinoyexchange.com)

PN—Zenaida Chavez (Playing Coach)

#1   Kiteh Rosale

#2  Cecille Tabuena-Cruzada

#3  Francislyn Cais

#4  Camille Cerveza

#6  Abby Praca

#8  Shiesa Nebrida

#10 Zenaida Chavez

#11 Aileen Suson

#12 Janet Serafica

#16 Czarina Reyes

#17 Mic-Mic Laborte

#18 Pinkee Fajardo


PNP—Ramonita Pajanostan

#3  Jennifer Mia

#4  Ghileen Labrador

#6  Jill Gustilo

#8  Janine Marciano

#10 Michelle Datuin

#11 Frances Molina

#16 Justyne Tadeo

#17 Melissa Ogana


SMART—Roger Gorayeb

#1  Rubie de Leon

#2  Alyssa Valdez

#3  Suzanne Roces

#5  Gretchel Soltones

#8  Charo Soriano

#9  Melissa Gohing

#11 Nica Guliman

#12 Jem Ferrer

#13 Maru Banaticla

It's been a while since Alyssa Valdez has been seen in action on TV (Photo: Josh Albelda)

So as you can see, there are still lots of holes in some rosters which will undoubtedly be plugged if not by opening day, as the conference goes along.

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Initially, I’m intrigued by Meralco’s line-up. It has just that right blend of youngsters and veterans and you can’t go wrong with the leadership of former MVP Penetrante-Ouano and the blistering floor patrolling of Reyes—one of the best liberos in the land today. Cagayan Valley once again looks formidable as Pamilar knows how to put together a solid line-up, now beefed up by two Thai imports. Air Force and Smart also appear tough to beat on paper, while Navy's Laborte will be reuniting with Serafica—one of the best setters ever—along with a phalanx of young blood in Rosale, Praca and head-turner Czarina Reyes and PNP will look to add more support for their core of Datuin, Gustilo and Tadeo. FEU will lean on the power of Palma down the middle and the exquisite setting of Sy, but this is a perfect springboard for the Lady Tamaraws to ready themselves for the upcoming UAAP wars.

However, Army still looms as the team to beat.

The addition of Daquis—who will be available for them in early September as she is still in Hanover, Germany—and lefty Gonzaga (a holdover from their PSL champion squad) makes them the odds-on-favorites for another run at the title which they successfully captured in the inaugural edition of this tournament in 2011, with Daquis being feted as Finals MVP. They proved that they can still be stellar despite the absence of Jen Reyes in their line-up. Bautista—formerly of Navy—gives the Lady Troopers an added dimension in that utility spot and it appears that Mayeth Carolino has fully recovered from the shoulder injury that all but kept her out of the PSL Invitational.

The Lady Troopers still loom as the favorites for the crown (Photo: George Calvelo/NPPA Images)

As they say, the ball is round, though, and anything can happen—especially with the field as wide open as this.

The best part about this for women’s volleyball is that it has become self-sustaining. This SVL Open should see one titanic struggle after another and we’re in for a full two months of pulsating action, starting at the San Juan Arena and ending with the playoffs at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.

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I will be working the opening day encounters with the unflappable Mozzy Ravena this Sunday. The games will be held every Sunday, Tuesday and Friday and will still be aired on the following day on GMA News TV. Webbies can watch the matches LIVE over the league's official website: http://www.v-league.ph.

Here we go again. It’s time for volleyball! It’s time for the Shakey’s V-League Open!

Follow Noel Zarate on Twitter (@NoelZarate) and email sportztackle@yahoo.com

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