Ateneo relishes ‘more exposure’ as volleyball preseason tilts return
MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro is delighted with the return of the preseason volleyball leagues in this pandemic era as his Blue Eagles are set to see action in the Shakey’s Super League (SSL), which opens on September 22.
The Blue Eagles, who finished with a bronze medal in the UAAP Season 84 women’s volleyball tournament, are looking to make the most out of the offseason by joining commercial tournaments including the inaugural SSL.
“Last (UAAP tournament) we really had a short preparation. We were limited to a few tune-up games. Having a preseason league is really important to us since a lot of our players turned pro,” said Almadro in Filipino during the league launch last Tuesday.
“We have a lot of new players so we really have to immerse in an actual match.”
The Blue Eagles have parted ways with senior libero Dani Ravena as well as Jaja Maraguinot and Erika Raagas, who opted to turn pro and signed with Akari.
The Ateneo coach, who steered the team with its third title in Season 81 last 2019, is fielding his young core, led by Faith Nisperos and AC Miner, against 10 NCAA schools and five UAAP rivals including La Salle and defending champion National University.
“We only have a few players in Ateneo, so most likely whoever plays in [SSL], will be our players in the UAAP,” he said.
GOOD FOR TEAMS
Almadro also lauded the proposed “all-to-play” rule — having a different set of starters in the first two sets — by the SSL organizers, allowing the coaches to manage loads of players and give everyone an opportunity to play.
“It’s good [for the teams]. According to Doc Ian (Laurel), they will be asking also the ideas of the coaches, we will be having a technical meeting on what’s best for the teams, what’s best for the league,” he said. “And it’s welcome for us coaches, that we have a say on what’s best for the team and our players.”
Sports Vision, which organizes the Premier Volleyball League and Spikers’ Turf, is also planning to bring back the V-League as its collegiate preseason tournament.
Almadro said they are also joining the tournament for his players to gain more experience.
“Yes, I heard about it. Having another league is good also. I guess [the schedules] will not overlap. Definitely, I think we will be joining also. We will just manage the line-up,” the Ateneo coach said. “The more exposure will be better for our team. I’m happy that the Ateneo Athletics Office is supporting us.“
Ateneo started 0-3 in the previous UAAP competition but still made it to the Final Four, winning three straight do-or-die games, beating University of the Philippines to force a playoff for No.4 against Adamson and eliminating the third seed University of Santo Tomas before getting ousted by the twice-to-beat La Salle in the last phase of the stepladder semifinals.