Ranking of the 10 teams participating in the Open PVL 2021 Conference
Philippine volleyball finally came together earlier in the year as once distant camps came together under a national federation and for a competition between the best and the best. As such, the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference will kick off on July 17 in a bubble in Laoag, Ilocos Norte.
While we will have to wait a bit longer to see how Philippine Superliga (PSL) F2 Logistics powerhouse ranks in the PVL, the Open Conference remains a competitive tournament where each team has a fighting chance.
Which of them is the favorite? Which of them is the dark horse? Here is what we think:
Creamline Cool Smashers
Creamline has reigned supreme in the last two iterations of the open conference. On the shoulders of superstar Alyssa Valdez, the Cool Smashers have established themselves as a lasting power.
This was all when there were two competing leagues, however, and when neither of them played professionally. Now there is only one arena where the best of the best have come together and all will play for the very first professional championship.
Make no mistake, however, Creamline remains privileged. Any team with Valdez will stand a good chance of winning it all – especially when PSL flagship F2 Logistics dropped this conference due to injuries.
Already with an advantage in Valdez, the Cool Smashers also have one of Jia Morado’s best, if not the best, passer as well as reliable veterans of Jema Galanza, Michelle Gumabao, Ella De Jesus, Pau Soriano and Risa Sato. Then, the rich got richer with the entries of dominant central blocker Jeanette Panaga and former UP striker Tots Carlos. Safe to say, this is the most complete lineup in the league, with an enviable mix of experience and youth to boot.
Chery Tiggo Crossovers
Two Santiago and Maika Ortiz. This will be the recipe for success for a Chery Tiggo team ready and eager to make waves in their entry into PVL.
After a strong performance in the Japan V Cup, Jaja Santiago is back to lead the way for the Crossovers alongside his older sister Dindin. That sister act should be more than enough right now as the Crossovers await the end of Eya and EJ Laure’s UST tour of duty.
The ship’s captain will then be Ortiz’s intimidating presence and veteran intelligence right at the net. Add in Gyzelle Sy and Jasmine Nabor sharing the tuning duties, national team Mylene Paat, and still strong Elaine Kasilag and coach Aaron Velez could very well have a juggernaut on their hands.
And in what ESPN5’s Noel Zarate described as “the biggest surprise yet,” Cherry Tiggo also “not removed” the legendary Tina Salak to be part of its lineup. Yes, Velez is getting another smart passer as well as an assistant coach. Movement of genius, we say!
contenders for the playoffs
Sta. Lucia Dame Real Estate Agents
The name Sta. Lucia resonated in sports. Changing that is the Lady Realtors first and foremost mission from the moment they joined volleyball competitions.
While Sta. Lucia failed to break into the PSL, they enter the PVL with the heaviest arsenal they’ve ever had. Up front and center are UAAP greats Mika Reyes, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Amy Ahomiro, and alongside them are the national team Dell Palomata, NCAA multi-champion Jovelyn Prado and veterans Pam Lastimosa and Bang Pineda. And prepare them for a more than likely run to the playoffs? Well, it’s just seasoned Rubie De Leon and young Djanel Cheng.
Petro Gazz Angels
After Creamline, Petro Gazz is perhaps the most successful PVL club in recent memory. While bandaged up by players like Panaga and Prado, the Angels were sure to give opponents a heck of a time on the taraflex.
However, Panaga, Prado and Chery Nunag are long gone. Don’t worry, Petro Gazz fans, as reinforcements have arrived in the form of national team Ria Meneses, power strikers Myla Pablo and Ces Molina, “Lady Beast” Grethcel Soltones, from the threat in midfield Remy Palma and libero ace Kath Arado. With veteran passer Chie Saet at the helm, don’t expect the Angels to run out of gas anytime soon.
When you combine the experience of passer Jem Ferrer and striker Suzanne Roces with youngsters from Nicole Tiamzon and Jho Maraguinot, you get a pretty solid starting point for any team. Already armed with that, along with a solid ground defense courtesy of Adamsonians Thang Ponce and Gellie Tempiatura, the Perlas Spikers went on to welcome a former top center blocker to Nunag as well as a wild card to Mich Morente.
The question is, however: Has Perlas returned to 100% of the fear of COVID-19 he suffered just two weeks ago during his training camp in Baguio?
Choco Mucho Flying Titans
First of all, Choco Mucho has a proven championship core. With the national team Maddie Madayag joining forces with Bea De Leon in the middle, Deanna Wong playing the game and Kat Tolentino and Ponggay Gaston hammering him, a title followed suit.
It was in the UAAP, however, around the time they were preparing for Ateneo. They are now the pros and to help this young team, the Flying Titans are banking on the legendary libero Denden Lazaro and the multi-champion of the NCAA Regine Arocha.
Don’t be surprised if Choco Mucho barely makes the playoffs. Also don’t be surprised, however, if they suddenly walk to the final.
PLDT Home Fibr Hitters
PLDT doesn’t have the embarrassment of the wealth that the teams above them on this list have. What they do have, however, is a coach who knows a thing or two about winning – and winning for a long, long, long time – in Roger Gorayeb as well as promising plays in Isa Molde, Chinchin Basas, Eli Soyud, Aiko Urdas, and Shola Alvarez.
Cignal HD points
The days when Cignal was an undisputed competitor are long gone. Rachel Anne Daquis remains, however, and “Queen RAD” will always find a way to inspire her team to compete. Also with Fiola Ceballos, Janine Marciano, May Luna and Jheck Dionela, it’s clear that the HD Spikers will remain tough.
Count Black Mamba-Army at your own risk. Although associated with the energy drink and not with Kobe Bryant, the fire and desire for competition that defined the late NBA great is forever rooted in Jovelyn Gonzaga and Ging Balse.
BaliPure’s purest water defenders
Safe to say, not much has been said about BaliPure. Flying under the radar may well prove to be beneficial for them, however, with upheavals in the minds of skipper Grazielle Bombita and ex-EU stud Judith Abil.