Michelle Gumabao stays with Pocari Sweat but Alyssa Valdez banners a new team and a slew of power-hitting imports are raring to strut their wares in the Shakey’s Season 13 Reinforced Conference, which fires off Saturday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
Gumabao and the Lady Warriors set out for another crack at the crown after upending the Air Force side in sudden death to claim the Open Conference title on their maiden season but they expect a tougher outing this time with seven other teams out to foil their bid in the season-ending conference of the league where it all started.
They include newcomer Bureau of Customs, which has tapped Valdez and a host of others to anchor its first-ever stint in the country’s premier women’s volley league sponsored by Shakey’s, along with regular campaigners Air Force, Coast Guard, Team Laoag, University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas and BaliPure.
“This being a single-round elims, each game is crucial, thus guaranteeing fierce action from the opening serve,” said Ricky Palou, president of the organizing Sports Vision. “While the foreign players are likely to dominate, we also expect our local players to measure up, all in top form owing to our year-long three-conference calendar.”
The top four teams will advance to the semifinals with the No. 1 taking on No. 4 and the Nos. 2 and 3 squads slugging it out in a pair of best-of-three series. The winners will dispute the championship in another best-of-three.
Gumabao will again skipper Pocari Sweat, Valdez will be at the helm of Customs, former league MVP Suzanne Roces will head BaliPure, FEU’s Wendy Semana will spearhead Air Force, while Kathy Bersola, Ennajie Laure and Hazel Mea will lead UP, UST and Coast Guard, respectively.
Backing up Gumabao are Americans Andrea Kay Kacsits and Breanna Lee Mackie with Open Conference MVP Myla Pablo, Desiree Dadang, Melissa Gohing, Elaine Kasilag, Maricar Nepomuceno and Gyzel Sy providing the local support.
Valdez, a former two-time league MVP, is expected to draw solid backup from Thai Kanjana Kuthaison and Natthanicha Jaisaen and local teammates Lilet Mabbayad, Menchie Tubiera and Michiko Castaneda while BaliPure will be backstopped by Americans Kaylee Manns and Katharine Morrell with tbe Water Defenders also to lean on talented locals Rysabelle Devanadera, Mary Mae Tajima, Ella de Jesus, Dzi Gervacio, Jem Ferrer, Charo Soriano, Bea Tan, Amy Ahomiro and Denden Lazaro.
UP has also tapped a pair of imports with its local crew, headed by Bersola, Marian Buitre, Isa Molde, Mae Basarte, Justine Dorog, Diana Carlos and Nicole Tiamzon, upbeat of their chances coming off a strong third place finish in the last conference of the league backed by Mikasa and Accel.
Coast Guard and Laoag will kick off hostilities in the 4 p.m. opener while Air Force and UST clash in the main game at 6 p.m. to be aired live over ABS-CBN Sports + Action Channel 23. The first match will be shown on a delayed basis although both matches can also be viewed live via streaming on www.v-league.ph, according to the organizing Sports Vision.
Also on tap is the Spikers’ Turf Season 2 Reinforced Conference with six teams, headed by defending champion Air Force, clashing for the crown. Others in the fold are Cignal, Sta. Elena Construction, Instituto Estetico Manila, Army and newcomer 100 Plus.
Air Force and 100 Plus clash in the lone opening day match at 12:30 p.m.