WITH lineups filled with explosive and experienced players, Army and Smart-Maynilad loom as heavy favorites in the Open Conference of the Shakey’s V-League Season 10 opening tomorrow at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Army boasts of an accomplished cast that has already established its mark in the league, while Smart has an equally talented yet younger squad that has been at the forefront of the sport’s resurgence.
Army, the 2011 champion, and Smart won’t meet until the final playdate of the elimination round on Sept. 15. But this early, the clash has already been billed as a potential preview of the finals.
Air Force, Cagayan province, Philippine National Police, Meralco, Navy and Far Eastern University are also in the mix with rosters also made up of current and former collegiate stars.
Skippered by Joanne Buñag, Army has recalled the core of its 2011 champion team, led by Rachel Anne Daquis and Marietta Carolino. League pioneers MJ Balse and Nene Bautista along with Tina Salak and Michelle Carolino give Army a wealth of experience.
Depth is also a strength of Army with former La Salle ace hitter Jacqueline Alarca, Ma. Theresa Iratay and Dahlia Cruz, Genie Sabas, Patricia Siatan-Torres, Angela Nuñag and Jovelyn Gonzaga all capable of providing additional firepower.
Aside from tapping the multi-titled Roger Gorayeb, Smart-Maynilad also has a star-studded lineup headed by former league MVP Sue Roces, finals MVP Alyssa Valdez and perhaps the league’s top two setters—Rubie de Leon and Jem Ferrer.
One of the league’s most popular players, Charo Soriano, returns to power Smart, along with UST’s Maru Banaticla, La Salle’s Melissa Gohing, Mica Guliman and Gretchel Soltones.
“Army is stronger but we’ll fight to the finish,” said Gorayeb, whose wards kick off their campaign against the Far Eastern U Lady Tams in the opener of the event sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza and backed by Mikasa and Accel.
The tournament kicks off with Meralco and PNP clashing in the 2 p.m. game.
The Meralco-PNP match will be aired on Monday on GMA News TV while the Smart-FEU duel will be shown on Tuesday starting at 1 p.m., according to the organizing Sports Vision.