It’s the championship season. Today, the NBA is on its fourth championship game, a do or die match for the Cleveland Cavaliers, while the Golden State Warriors are one win away from taking the crown. In the Philippines, Game 1 of the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) finals between the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors and the Balipure Water Defenders will be played today. Despite the league’s rocky beginning due to an issue on the imports’ ITCs, it seems like the PVL will eventually end on a high note on its opening year.
The Lady Warriors is on its third straight conference playing in the finals, being successful in last year’s both reinforced and all-Filipino conferences of the PVL’s predecessor, the Shakey’s V-league. This championship experience may be the key factor to the team’s win in this best-of-three series, despite its key losses in the likes of Michele Gumabao and Iris Tolenada. They seem to be the more favored team to win this series as they also have a full line-up with highly skilled players.
Just this Thursday, the Lady Warrior’s new import, Krystal Rivers was cleared to play in the league, just in time for today’s finals match. She replaced Edina Selimovic, their Bosnian guest player who suffered a torn hamstring during the season. An Alabama standout, Rivers is part of the US women’s volleyball training pool. She will definitely be a good addition to the roster, adding muscle to the line up. Right now Michelle Strizak and Myla Pablo are the ones doing damage to opponents, and with Rivers in the starting six, the Lady Warriors might just be unstoppable.
Although the team is stacked with heavy artillery, one should note that the team has been playing every game day since the quarterfinals. They played two of three games of the quarters in five sets, and played in all three games in the semis. As compared to their opponents, the Water Defenders, they are in danger of losing steam in this championship series.
The Water Defenders on the other hand emerged as No.1 seed after the elimination round and had the advantage of some downtime before the semifinals. To their advantage, they were able to do some recovery, fine-tuning in their plays as well as a little team bonding during their mid-season break. That would be one of the things that they need, as Team Balipure is one of the teams that were formed only weeks before the league started. Although this situation won’t take them to a disadvantage as most of the players in their line up has been under the helm of Roger Gorayeb. Even one of their guest players, Jang Buale, who is playing her last year as an import in the Philippines has been always part of Gorayeb’s lineup.
Jaz Nabor, Team Balipure’s setter maybe the crucial factor to the team’s victory in this series. Despite being a converted setter, she has proven to be one of the best, at least in the collegiate level. She’s very versatile, she can distribute plays well and can even score attack points herself. The team’s guest player, Jennifer Keddy proved to be a surprise to some with her solid defensive skills despite her towering height.
Looking back to their previous meetings in the elimination round, they tallied a 1-1 win-loss record, foretelling that the championship round would be one roller coaster ride.