MANILA, Philippines - Defending champion National University and newly crowned UAAP titlist Ateneo strut their wares today, each hoping to impress and get their respective bid going against separate rivals in the kickoff of the Shakey’s V-League Season 11 First Conference at The Arena in San Juan.
But it won’t be a cruise for the Lady Bulldogs and the Lady Eagles as they face a pair of highly touted rivals also raring to make an immediate impact for the momentum and confidence needed in the single round robin elims which features a record of 12 teams, including the best and the brightest teams from the UAAP and NCAA and from Baguio, Cebu and Davao.
But Ateneo and NU still loom as the favorites in the season-opening conference of the league where it all started owing to their solid roster and strength with the Lady Eagles hoping to sustain the momentum of their record-setting title victory in the UAAP against the Adamson Lady Falcons in the 2 p.m. opener of a blockbuster twinbill.
NU, out to atone for its failed bid in the UAAP where it blew a twice-to-beat edge and bowed to Ateneo in the stepladder semis, takes on a Perpetual Help side coming off a triumphant campaign in the NCAA in the 4 p.m. main game.
An elaborate opening ceremony will mark the start of the new season at 1 p.m. with San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez as guest of honor and Shakey’s officials, headed by EVP and COO Vic Gregorio, and organizing Sports Vision president Ricky Palou and chair Moying Martelino expected to make the ceremonial serves.
Focus will be on Season and Finals MVP Alyssa Valdez, who rose to the challenge to lead the Lady Eagles past the thrice-to-beat La Salle Lady Spikers in the UAAP finals, and the rest of the gritty Ateneo crew that includes Denden Lazaro, Amy Ahomiro, Melissa Morado and Michelle Morente.
But Adamson will be waiting in ambush behind mainstays Shiela Marie Pineda, Mylene Paat, Mae Zapanta, and former ace Pau Soriano and Thai reinforcement Pacharee Sangmuang.
The Lady Bulldogs will pin their hopes on sisters Dindin and Jaja Santiago with support expected to come from Aiko Urdas, Carmin Aganon and Myla Pablo while Perpetual Help will be led by veterans Norie Diaz and Honey Rose Tubino.
St. Louis University makes its debut on Tuesday against Southwestern U from Cebu while many-time NCAA champion San Sebastian tests Far Eastern U’s mettle in the other game in the second playdate of the league sponsored by Shakey’s and organized by Sports Vision.
The 12 teams, the most in the 11-year staging of the country’s premier women’s volley league, are divided into two groups with Ateneo heading Group 1 along with Adamson, Arellano U, St. Benilde, SWU and SLU and NU bannering Group 2 that includes SSC, Davao, FEU, Perpetual Help and the league’s winningest University of Santo Tomas.
The top four teams from each side after the single round elims will advance to the quarters where they will again be divided into two in another single round phase. However, games played by the teams in the same groups in the elims will no longer be played while the results will be carried over to the quarters.
The top two squads from each side will clash in a crossover semis, a best-of-three with the winners clashing for the crown in another best-of-three duel.