The Premier Volleyball League kicks off its inaugural Collegiate Conference today with a promise of slam-bang action in both the men’s and women’s divisions featuring the leading players and rising stars from the country’s top universities and colleges.
Ateneo launches its title drive sans its top setter and ace hitter but the Lady Eagles remain upbeat of their chances in the seven-week tournament also serving as the pre-season event for 12 women’s teams and 10 men’s squads priming up for their respective school leagues.
The Lady Eagles take on the Jose Rizal U Lady Bombers in the 6:30 p.m. main game following the 4 p.m. clash with the Arellano Lady Chiefs and the St. Benilde Lady Blazers in a pair of matches tipped to go down-to-the-wire.
The 12 teams are divided into two groups with Ateneo and JRU leading Group A that also includes San Sebastian, National U, Lyceum of the PH U and Far Eastern U while St. Benilde and Arellano making up Group B along with University of the Philippines, Technological Institute of the Philippines, San Beda and Adamson U.
Meanwhile, two matches also kick off the men’s hostilities with sister schools La Salle and St. Benilde mixing it up at 10 a.m. and UP and UST clashing in the other game at 1 p.m.
Eight teams, also divided into two groups, are slugging it out for the men’s title.
The top two from each side of both the men’s and women’s divisions after the single round elims will advance to the crossover best-of-three semis with the winners disputing the inaugural PVL collegiate crowns, also a best-of-three affair.
The star-studded National U, winner of the last two collegiate titles of the now-defunct V-League, opens its drive tomorrow (Sunday) against Lyceum at 4 p.m. while TIP and San Beda tangle at 6:30 p.m.
Action continues on Monday with San Sebastian squaring off with FEU at 4 p.m. and UP facing Adamson at 6:30 p.m.
In men’s play, NU takes on San Beda at 10 a.m. tomorrow while Ateneo slugs it out with FEU at 1 p.m.
Top playmaker Jia Morado decided to forego his last playing year while top spiker Michelle Morante has also left Ateneo, leaving the likes of Jhoanna Maraguinot, Bea de Leon, Kim Gequilllano, Ana Gopico, Pauline Gaston and Kat Tolentino to man the fort.
The Katipunan-based school also parades rookie Dani Ravena, sister of Ateneo’s cage standouts Kiefer and Thirdy, who will play the role as setter behind starting playmaker Deanna Wong.
Ateneo placed second twice to National University in the now-defunct V-League Collegiate Conference but the Lady Eagles are confident of finally breaking that spell with a successful title campaign in the new league organized by Sports Vision.
“Like any other team, our goal is to win the championship,” said De Leon, now Ateneo’s team captain. “We’ll just do our best every game.”
But the Lady Bombers are also out to make an immediate impact with veteran Shola Alvarez leading the squad that also includes Angela Bondoc, setter Mercy Rivera, Annie Macaraya and Kassandra Ebuenga.
JRU coach Mia Tioseco also sees their PVL stint as a big boost to the Lady Bombers’ buildup for the next NCAA tournament.
“The PVL is a good exposure for the team where we can build up confidence individually and as a team,” said Tioceson.
The St. Benilde-Arellano clash is also expected to be fierce in a duel of former and reigning NCAA champions although both teams are fielding in practically new rosters following the graduation of their respective stars.
But Jovielyn Prado remains the chief AU hitter and leader with support to come from Andrea Marzan, Anne Esguerra, libero Faye Flores, Rhea Ramirez, Necole Necole Ebuen and Regine Arocha, who played for the Power Smashers in the recent PVL Reinforced and Open Conferences.
St. Benilde, on the other hand, will be bannered by Marites Pablo, Angela Enginco, Diane Ventura, Chelsie Umali, Ranya Musa and setter Pauline Cardiente.