With a pair of third place finishes in its maiden campaign and a comebacking high-scoring Thai import, there’s to way to go but up for BaliPure when it kicks off its title bid in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference beginning tomorrow (Sunday, April 30) at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.
Jaroensri Bualee, the league’s most decorated import with 13 awards, including six Best Scorer and two conference and Finals MVP titles, has signed up with the Purest Water Defenders, raring to flaunt her form when they open their campaign against the Air Force Jet Spikers in the opener of an explosive triple-bill ushering in the 14th season of the country’s longest-running league where it all started.
With American Jennifer Keddy, a former Cal Poly mainstay, as the other reinforcement, BaliPure is tipped to crowd the pre-tournament favorites for the crown in the season-opening conference of the league organized by Sports Vision and backed by Mikasa and Asics.
Veteran and multi-titled coach Roger Gorayeb has also in his arsenal a crack crew of locals, led by his former wards in the collegiate leagues, including many-time NCAA MVP Grethcel Soltones and former National U stalwarts Jorelle Singh, Risa Sato, Aiko Urdas and Jasmine Nabor.
The team’s liberos are Alyssa Eroa, also a former SSC mainstay, and former Adamson stalwart Lizless Ann Pantone.
They will be as much tested as the Jet Spikers, who are also raring to nail the big one after finishing second to the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors in last year’s Open Conference.
Unlike BaliPure, Air Force has been in the league for years with coach Jasper Jimenez upbeat of their chances this year given their experience and familiarity with each other’s plays.
“Our advantage, if there’s any, is our experience since we’ve been playing together for quite sometime and we know each other’s moves,” said Jimenez, referring to the likes of Joy Cases, Wendy Semana, Iari Yongco, May Ann Pantino, Jocemer Tapic and Angel Antipuesto.
Another Thai veteran, Patcharee Sangmuang, will anchor the Jet Spikers’ title drive along with other locals Camille Abanto, Mariel Legaspi, Gena Andaya and Mary Ann Balmaceda.
Play is a double-round elims with the top four advancing to the best-of-three semis where the No. 1 faces the No. 4 team and second and third ranked squads clashing in the other Final Four pairing. Winners will dispute the crown in another best-of-three duel.
Also on tap is the six-team men’s Reinforced Conference also set to start tomorrow at 10 a.m. with Army colliding with Instituto Estetico Manila. The other squads are Café Lupe, Cignal TV Inc., Santa Elena Construction and Philippine Army.
The women’s matches will be aired live on S+A Channel 23.