MANILA, Philippines - An explosive triple-bill kicks off the Shakey's V-League Open today, with first conference champion Ateneo testing the mettle of a talent-laden Sandugo-San Sebastian side in an early clash of title contenders at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.
Army and Navy fire off hostilities in the country’s premier women’s volley league at 2 p.m. with the former looking for an auspicious start in its title-retention drive while FEU and Cagayan slug it out in the 4 p.m. second game.
The Lady Eagles, who beat the former six-time champion UST Tigresses for the Shakey's V-League first conference crown last July, open their bid for a second straight championship against a team teeming with talent.
Thais Jeng Bualee and Utaiwan Kaensing banner the Sandugo-SSC squad that also features former league MVP Nene Bautista and veterans Joy Benito, Angela Benting, Mae Crisostomo, Rubie de Leon, Rhea Dimaculangan, Jill Gustilo and Suzanne Roces, easily making it the team to beat.
"The defending champion is Army but if you look at the lineups it seems Sandugo is a formidable team. It has good locals and two Thai imports. They will be the team to beat," said Ricky Palou, president of the organizing Sports Vision.
The Lady Eagles are also raring to prove their worth in the mid-season tournament sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza and backed by Mikasa and Accel.
MVP Alyssa Valdez, Fille Cainglet and Dzi Gervacio banner a solid Ateneo side that includes Gretchen Ho, Mona Bagatsing, Bea Tan, Den-den Lazaro and Jem Ferrer – all ready to slug it out with the most feared squad in the fold in the 6 p.m. main encounter.
Focus will also be on Army, which toppled San Sebastian College to clinch the inaugural Shakey’s V-League Open crown last year, with sisters Mayeth and Michelle Carolino spearheading its bid along with Joanne Bunag, Dahlia Cruz, Ers Iratay, Tina Salak and Shasha Siatan-Torres.
The Navy girls, on the other hand, are out to improve on their fourth place finish here last year with Micmic Laborte, Joan Carpio, Daphne Mata, Marilou Galido and Janet Serafica tipped to lead the team’s campaign.
Cagayan Province, meanwhile, hopes to make an impact on its first V-League stint behind veteran campaigners April Sartin, Royse Rubino, Joy Cases, Jen Manzano and Sandra delos Santos as they face the Lady Tams, who boasts of talents in Angeline Tabaquero, Marie Toni Basas, Ivy Remulla, Gyzelle Sy, Yvett Tutanes and Wenneth Eulalio.
Play will be a double round robin elims with the top four advancing to the crossover semis with the No. 1 team clashing with No. 4 and the Nos. 2 and 3 disputing the other finals berth in a pair of best-of-three series. The finals will also be a best-of-three affair.