Pre-tournament favorite Pocari Sweat tests the mettle of a young but hungry University of the Philippines side as they slug it out in the opener of the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Open Conference on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan.
Former collegiate stars Michelle Gumabao and Melissa Gohing of La Salle and Myla Pablo of National University will spearhead the Pocari Sweat Warriors against the Lady Maroons, who will be coming into the event oozing with confidence following a strong Final Four finish in the recent UAAP volley wars.
Gametime is at 6:30 p.m.
Pocari team manager Eric Ty said he expects the Warriors, to be handled for Ateneo mentor Tai Bundit of Thailand, to use their experience and familiarity with one another against the Diliman-based squad.
“Although we have a new coach, most of the players have been together for about a year now and we will be relying on that the whole conference,” said Ty, whose team was formerly called Philips Gold.
The Lady Maroons, who bucked the odds to reach the semis in the UAAP, also boast of a slew of talented and rising stars, including Kat Bersola, Isa Molde, Justine Dorog, Diane Carlos and Nicole Ann Tiamzon.
“We’re here to gain as much experience as we can but if we can beat some strong teams, we’ll take it,” said UP mentor Jerry Yee.
The National U Lady Bulldogs and the Team Laoag Power Smashers, formerly KIA, tangle in the opener at 4 p.m.
Jaja Santiago is expected to lead the way for the Lady Bulldogs along with Jorelle Singh, Aiko Urdas and rookie Raisa Sato against the Nes Pamilar-mentored Laoag Power Smashers.
NU coach Roger Gorayeb said they are using the tournament to atone for their failed semis bid in the recent UAAP.
“We’re trying to regroup,” said Gorayeb.
Fancied Bali Pure, a squad headed by Alyssa Valdez, Denden Lazaro, reigning NCAA MVP Gretchel Soltones and playing coach Charo Soriano, will debut on May 30 against Team Iriga while Air Force tackles Baguio the same day.
The top four teams after the double round robin elims will advance to the crossover semis, a best-of-three affair, with the winners disputing the crown, another best-of-three.
Meanwhile, the Spikers Turf, the men’s league, kicks off its second season also on May 28.