Chances of fielding a competitive Philippine women’s volleyball team in international competitions are starting to look better and brighter if the recent performances of the top teams in the Premier Volleyball League is the basis.
Converting the organization to a professional type seems to be offering a helping hand to the competitiveness of the different teams as the battle for supremacy in the 2022 PVL Open Conference became tighter during tournament’s preliminary round.
Powerhouses Chery Tiggo Crossovers and F2 Logistics failed to field their respective stars during last year’s campaign and are heavily struggling because of it.
Not only that, the other teams’ capitalizing on just one lady’s absence shows there are lesser pushover teams in this league.
With Jaja Santiago still campaigning in Japan, the defending champion Crossovers could not buy a win and were in real danger of completely missing out the knockout stages until 25-22, 25-17, 25-19 win against also-ran Army Black Mamba secured a spot in the quarterfinals despite a dismal 1-3 record in Pool A.
A tough hill to climb awaits them as a rematch with 2021 PVL Open Conference runner up Creamline Cool Smashers while bearing a twice-to-beat disadvantage awaits them.
On the other hand, F2’s failure to sign Kali Mau kept the Logistics out from a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals due to a pulsating 21-25, 28-26, 20-25, 22-25 four-set loss to the Choco Mucho Flying Titans, fourth-placer in last year’s edition .
Mau was instrumental in the Logistics’ winning of the 2021 Philippine National Volleyball Federation Champions’ League.
F2 started strong in the tournament with a 3-1 walloping of the Black Mamba and a surprising 3-0 rout of the Crossovers but could not sustain the run.
Meanwhile, the other top teams’ path towards the playoffs were not as rosy as they were when two separate leagues exist.
The Flying Titans’ thrilling win against the Logistics was not the only cardiac game they had to go through to get to their spot.
They booked their first win with a 25-21, 16-25, 25-17, 17-25, 18-16 thriller over the Crossovers.
The Cool Smashers maybe the top seed of Pool B with a 3-0 mark but found themselves running into a tough five-setter win over the Petro Gazz Angels.
There was no clear winner of this 25-23, 21-25, 25-19, 23-25, 15-10 contest that went full route until the Cool Smashers broke the game wide open midway through the fifth set.
The Angels, themselves, have to endure a 25-22, 19-25, 25-22, 25-18 tightly fought contest against the PLDT High Speed Hitters to secure a twice-to-beat advantage in the crossover quarterfinals.
Lastly, the cellar dweller team last conference is now the unbeaten leader of Pool A. The Cignal HD Spikers bagged all matches in what many described as the “Pool of Death”.
A trio of four-setter wins against the pre-season favorites induced their floor leader Rachel Anne Daquis to be thankful for the top-seed to be battle-tested in preparation for the knockout rounds, something unimaginable pre-season.
Cignal was the laughing stock of the 2021 edition with their last place 1-8 record but is having a hearty laugh so far this conference having swept their group, including impressive 25-22, 22-25, 25-22, 25-18 win against Chery Tiggo; 25-14, 25-21, 19-25, 25-18 victory against F2; and 20-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-16 win against Choco Mucho.
They should be a heavy favorite to make it to the next round having drawn a winless Balipure Water Defenders in the quarterfinals as a consequence of their sweep.
Clearly, there will be less routs in the PVL on the current set-up of the participating teams.
Any of the top to mid-seeded teams can win their series and sent home another team packing even with a twice-to-beat disadvantage.
Aside from the Creamline-Chery Tiggo rematch, 2021 PVL Open Conference third-placer Petro Gazz draws F2 in a separate series. Note that this is just the quarterfinals.
The balance in the league is accented by the fact that two of the top four teams last year will be going home after the battle of the top eight teams.
Rivalries are also starting to be created in this two-conference old professional league.
At the end of the day, Philippine volleyball gets to benefit the most from this competitive league.
By Armando M. Bolislis