MANILA, Philippines -- For the Cignal HD Spikers, their win against BaliPure on Monday was special in more ways than one.
It brought them to the semifinals of the 2022 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference, and kept them unbeaten in the competition so far. The HD Spikers are now 5-0 in the tournament after winning just once last year.
Just as important for Cignal HD was that the victory came in front of a capacity crowd at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan. It was the first volleyball game played in front of fans since March 2020, and the HD Spikers made sure to give them a show.
"Ako, sobrang happy. Actually papunta pa lang kami dito, and pagdating na, pagpasok namin diyan sa San Juan, parang nakaka-ano ulit, actually nakakakilabot nga noong nakita namin na, 'Wow'," Cignal HD coach Shaq delos Santos said after the game.
"Ang sarap ng feeling. And then ngayon, parang maririnig na ulit namin ang sigawan," he added.
The HD Spikers made quick work of the Water Defenders, completing a comprehensive 25-14, 25-9, 25-14 triumph in just an hour and nine minutes.
According to delos Santos, the fans were a big factor in their inspired performance.
"Alam naman natin kung gaano nila kamahal 'yung volleyball, 'di ba? Kung gaano natin kamahal 'yung sport natin, ganoon din nila ka-love 'yun," the coach said.
"So kami sobrang nakakatuwa, kasi parang ito na. Nafi-feel na natin, bumabalik na kahit paano. I guess, good start ulit, and hopefully talagang magtuloy-tuloy na," he added.
Ces Molina, who led Cignal HD with 12 points, called the fans' presence a "morale booster."
"Very excited kami pumunta dito, and alam namin din na prepared kami para magpakita sa audience natin for the first time again," she said.
The PVL played its 2021 Open Conference behind closed doors at the PCV Socio-Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte last year. The elimination round of this conference was also held without fans at the Paco Arena in Manila.
But the league finally opened its doors to fans on Monday, and volleyball supporters swarmed the San Juan venue to see their idols in action. According to arena staff, fans lined up as early as 5 a.m., although tickets went on sale only at 1 p.m.
There are no limitations on crowd attendance, but they are required to be fully vaccinated to gain entry to the venue.