UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas returns to the Shakey’s V-League, hoping to increase their record haul of six titles when Season 9 unfolds April 24 at the FilOil-Flying V Arena.
The Tigresses, whose last title came two years ago before they took a leave of absence from the league, loom as one of the favorites in a tournament seen as one of the most competitive since the league started.
Ateneo will be back to defend its title against a crack field that also include former champions Adamson and San Sebastian, NCAA titlist Perpetual Help and another returning team, Letran.
Far Eastern U, National U and Visayan teams University of St. La Salle of Bacolod and Southwestern University of Cebu complete the formidable 10-team cast.
“This is going to be a wide-open race,” said Ricky Palou, president of the organizing Sports Vision. “All teams have got what it takes to win. The return of UST makes it doubly interesting.”
The field is divided into two groups with the top four teams after a single round elimination in each bracket advancing to the quarterfinal stage.
The Tigresses, with coach Odjie Mamon now at the helm after replacing Shaq delos Santos last year, will pin their hopes on former Most Valuable Player Mary Jean Balse and Thai ace Patcharee Sangmuang as guest players.
Maru Banaticla, Judy Caballejo, Maika Ortiz and skipper Rhea Dimaculangan are still around to carry the fight for the Tigresses in the tournament sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza and backed by Mikasa and Accel.
Ateneo has recalled Thai guest player Lithawat Kesinee to team up with Alyssa Valdez, Gretchen Ho, Dzi Gervacio, Fille Cainglet, Jem Ferrer and defensive specialist Denden Lazaro.
Reinforced by former stars Janet Serafica and Nene Bautista, the Lady Falcons will also count on Pau Soriano, Sheila Pineda, Jampong Quinlog, and Angelica Vasquez.
A prominent fixture in the league the past five years, Thai ace Jeng Bualee is still the top choice for the Lady Stags as reinforcement along with Ruby De Leon. Skipper Karen Berbano, Dafna Robiños, Mae Crisostomo, Michelle Gerona and veteran Joy Benito
NCAA MVP Sandra delos Santos will banner Perpetual’s campaign, along with Honey Royce Tubino, Janice Abar, Angelique Dionela and Kath Bulatao
Letran will have NCAA standouts Lalaine Anne Villarin, Manel Carolino, Justyne Mae Tadeo, Gena Andaya and Angelica Santos while La Salle hopes to at least match its surprising third-place finish last year.