MANILA, Philippines - Ateneo kicks off its title-retention drive against Far Eastern U today while former titlist San Sebastian squares off with Letran in what promises to be a slam-bang opener of the Shakey’s V-League ninth season at The Arena in San Juan.
With a short format and an even-playing field of 10 teams divided into two groups, expect a spirited battle with the top four in each side after a single round robin elims advancing to the quarters.
That makes each game crucial with the Lady Eagles, backstopped by Thai ace Lithawat Kesinee and a host of talented locals, hoping to start out with a win against an FEU side raring to prove its worth.
Gametime is at 4 p.m.
The Lady Stags, winless since ruling the second conference of the 2008 season of the league sponsored by Shakey's Pizza, parades resident Thai import Jang Bualee and Rubie de Leon as they go up against the Lady Knights, reinforced by Joy Cases, at 2 p.m.
Meanwhile, the organizing Sports Vision has cited the growth of the sport the last few years even as it expressed confidence of coming up with a truly commercial league in the near future.
"Over the last eight years, we have seen women's volleyball grow in popularity. We believe that this is due to the tournament we have put up as more students are now willing to take up the sport with the end in view of eventually playing in the Shakey's V-League. Hopefully this interest will result in the development of better players for our national team," said Sports Vision president Ricky Palou.
He added that Sports Vision would like to see the creation of a commercial league, saying: "This would really create more interest in the sport as players will now have something to look forward to after their college playing days. Eventually we will have more and more athletes playing volleyball which in turn will give us a bigger pool of players to chose from for our national team."
Back in the fold after a two-year hiatus, University of Santo Tomas sees action on Thursday against Letran while NCAA champion Perpetual Help and contender National U tangle in the other game of a three-game bill marking the second playdate of the league organized by Sports Vision.
Ateneo got back at Adamson to claim its first V-League crown last year with the Lady Eagles back with an intact lineup that includes skipper Dzi Gervacio and power hitter Alyssa Valdez.
Also in the roster are veterans Fille Cainglet and Gretchen Ho while ace setter Jem Ferrer will again be Ateneo's chief playmaker and libero Denden Lazaro will anchor the team's defense with support from Aillysse Nacachi, Ella de Jesus, Bea Tan, Mona Bagatsing, Tash Faustino, Mae Tajima and Sarah Cruz.
FEU coach Nes Pamilar, however, hopes to draw the best from Wenneth Eulalio, Christine Agno, Charlene Gillego, May Roxas, Toni Basas, Yvett Tutanes and Rose Vargas and pull off an early surprise in the league.
Spicing up the event are the entry of Visayan teams University of St. La Salle of Bacolod and Cebu’s Southwestern University.
The top four will clash in the crossover semis with the No. 1 team colliding with the No. 4 squad and the Nos. 2 and 3 teams disputing the other finals berths in separate best-of-three series. The finals is also a best-of-three affair.