THE SHAKEY’S V-League’s Open Conference this year is a star-studded affair each playday.
Departing from its regular school-based tournament, the decade-old women’s volleyball league now has teams like the Cagayan Rising Suns, Meralco, Air Force, Army, Navy, Philippine National Police, and Smart.
This is nothing new for the Shakey’s V-League since it has even had foreign teams participating in the Open tournament in the past. Far Eastern U is the sole school squad and its participation in the games is aimed at gaining much-needed seasoning for the Lady Tamaraws for the upcoming college tournaments.
The abundance of excellent players indicates that the game is alive and well. The only thing lacking really is a solid framework for a national team, but that’s an issue for another column.
The armed forces units have always maintained athletic teams that have been a haven for college athletes who don’t have a professional league and want to keep on playing. Companies like those from the Manny V. Pangilinan Group are beginning to field volleyball teams. It is hoped that more organizations will form teams so that the sport sustains its phenomenal upsurge.
The Cagayan Rising Suns should be a team to watch after its first win against the Air Force last Friday. Their unit includes college stars Angeli Tabaquero, Aiza Maizo, and Joy Benito. The interesting addition is Thai guest setter Soraya Phomla.
Through the years, the Shakey’s V-League has welcomed Thai imports but mostly attackers like the hard-hitting Jeng Bualee. It will be engaging to find out how Soraya distributes the ball given the language differences. Well, sport has a way of bridging gaps and facial expressions and sign language should help when words don’t connect.
Some interesting combinations that could not have happened in the collegiate circuit are lined up. For example, veteran Rubie de Leon, who was National U’s guest setter during its title run in the first conference, is tossing for different generations of players in the Smart squad like scorer Charo Soriano of Ateneo and Gretchel Soltones, the upcoming star from San Sebastian College.
Cohesion and chemistry will be paramount issues for teams that were hastily formed for the tournament.
Smart coach Roger Gorayeb has expressed concerns over gelling even if his lineup is tight and compact with De Leon, Soriano, Soltones and the veteran utility player Suzanne Roces. Unlike school-based units or permanent teams like those of the military units that have been together for some time, new teams will have to rely on the skills of the players to adapt to game situations.
Having played alongside or against each other through the years, most of the stars know almost everyone’s strength and weaknesses. The familiarity should be a plus but the coaches will still have their work cut out for them.
The fans are the ones who will savor this tournament because the game’s stars from different clubs and generations will be there to strut their stuff.