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How PVL Teams Can Stay Competitive Without Alas Pilipinas Stars

How PVL Teams Can Stay Competitive Without Their Alas Pilipinas Stars

Players in the Alas Pilipinas squad won’t be playing in the PVL’s upcoming Reinforced Conference. What does that mean for their teams?

Premier Volleyball League (PVL) President Ricky Palou recently made it official that all those in the Alas Pilipinas pool will not be suiting up for their mother teams in the upcoming Reinforced Conference. That makes it a creative effort for the affected squads to select imports to fill the void left by their stars-on-loan to the national team program and to look into acquiring fresh talent from the upcoming PVL draft this July.

The Creamline Cool Smashers (Jema Galanza and Tots Carlos), the Cignal HD Spikers (Vanie Gandler and Dawn Macandili-Catindig), the Chery Tiggo Crossovers (Eya Laure and Jennifer Nierva), the Akari Chargers (Fifi Sharma and Faith Nisperos) the Choco Mucho Flying Titans (Sisi Rondina and Cherry Nunag), and the PLDT High-Speed Hitters (Dell Palomata) are the clubs that are scampering to fill the holes left by their stars.

As far as imports go, only PLDT has reacquired the services of outside hitter Elena Samoilenko of Russia, while Cherry Tiggo signed former Philippine Super Liga (PSL) star reinforcement Khat Bell. University of Georgia alum Erica Staunton is reportedly joining the Cool Smashers’ roster. The 23-year-old is listed as an outside hitter.

How do these PVL teams attempt to stay competitive in spite of losing some of its important pieces to Alas Pilipinas?

For Creamline

Creamline is immediately among the hardest hit by this PVL ruling as Alas Pilipinas standouts Galanza and Carlos are part of its starting core. Skipper Alyssa Valdez is said to be almost at full strength from the various injuries that hampered her performance during Cool Smashers’ title run in the previous All-Filipino Conference and the alleged acquisition of Staunton helps alleviate Galanza’s temporary departure. Michele Gumabao, the league’s five-time Best Opposite Hitter, will return to the starting lineup but this move now makes the bench thin, although do-it-all winger Bernadeth Pons has shown that she is more than a capable back-up.

Barring any free agent signings over the next few weeks, the draft does have some talent in Gumabao’s (and Carlos’) position although Creamline will not be picking early.

University of the Philippines volleyball player Steph Bustrillo
UP’s Steph Bustrillo. (Photo credit: UAAP Media Bureau)

Perhaps available in the latter stages of the first round could be the University of the Philippines’ most efficient hitter from the last UAAP season Steph Bustrillo who brought stability to the Fighting Maroons and is seen as having a similar skillset to that of Gumabao and Carlos, albeit in a more lowkey manner. Her length and knack for picking the right spots could Bustrillo listed as among the “sleepers” and Creamline would benefit the most from her selection. Others who could also make a difference for the Cool Smashers are Adamson’s AA Adolfo and Mia Diño of Arellano University.

For Cignal

Despite Gandler’s emergence, The HD Spikers still lean heavily on their veteran duo Ces Molina and Jovelyn Gonzaga. With middle blockers like Rose Doria and Riri Meneses, it would appear that Cignal could be employing the services of a wing spiker as their foreign reinforcement. It will be at the libero spot where young blood would be needed to backstop the iconic Jheck Dionela.

Since Cignal could be a middle pick in the draft, Ateneo’s super floor defender Roma Mae Doromal could be a potential first-rounder as most of the teams ahead could be leaning on height and beefing up their offensive core.

Ateneo’s Roma Mae Doromal. (Photo credit: UAAP Media Bureau)

Doromal, the Blue Eagles’ skipper last season, reminds many of a very young Dennise Lazaro-Revilla as an intellectual libero who does not rely on athletic ability to lead her team in digging and receiving — and she is quite adept at both facets.

Not to be outdone, though, would be former San Sebastian libero-captain Jewelle Bermillo and another Lady Falcon in Karen Verdeflor, who could be among those who could provide instant results as floor patrollers. Brock University’s Aleiah Torres might also get a look.

For Chery Tiggo

The Crossovers are in a similar boat with Cignal but have it even tougher as Alas Pilipinas star Laure is their leading scorer and Nierva had gotten more minutes than erstwhile starter Buding Duremdes in the last PVL conference.

Laure’s loss opens the door for more playing time for former UAAP Finals MVP Cess Robles and could even pave the way for a return to the outside hitter role for converted middle blocker Pauline Gaston—especially now that Bell will take from her minutes. Duremdes was instrumental in Chery Tiggo’s conquest of the 2021 season championship, so drafting a libero might not be in the immediate plan for the Crossovers as free agency could still be explored.

The middle position is where they may need an upgrade—especially if it is true that Gaston will revert to the wings.

Chery Tiggo is forecasted to have a later pick (perhaps 7th to 9th) in which case creativity will come into play when selecting a middle blocker that deep.

Adamson’s Shar Ancheta could be considered a “project” with massive potential as the 5’11” pivot has the wingspan to be intimidating upfront. She played a lot off the bench for the Lady Falcons last season in the UAAP, but when she got her burn, she had impactful stints and this could bode well for the Crossovers to assist the likes of Aby Maraño, Cza Carandang, and Seth Rodriguez.

In the mix would be erstwhile Perpetual Help Captain Razel Aldea and Daisy Melendres of Letran.

For Akari

Sharma and Nisperos are irreplaceable, hence it would be in the best interest of the Chargers to bring in an import that plays in the middle blocker position (to patch up the Sharma hole) while Nisperos does have capable fellow wingers in Grethcel Soltones, Erika Raagas, and Janine Marciano.

However, the recent news that alleges that veteran opposite hitter Din-Din Santiago-Manabat is headed to Choco Mucho may have Akari looking for a trainable option in the draft.

Picking early (projected to be at the 4th or 5th slot), the Chargers may look to the closest clone to Santiago-Manabat in De La Salle University’s 6’1” Leila Cruz — who sat out the last UAAP season due to an injury.

DLSU volleyball player Leila Cruz
DLSU’s Leila Cruz. (Photo credit: UAAP Media Bureau)

Cruz was Sharma’s teammate when the Lady Spikers copped the UAAP crown two years back and her knack for defense at the net against the opposition’s best outside hitter would make her acquisition a no-brainer for a team that is already being hailed as having one of the tallest line-ups in the league.

For Choco Mucho

Getting Santiago-Manabat is a huge upgrade to a squad that still has Kat Tolentino on the mend from an aural issue (as well as Des Cheng and Aduke Ogunsanya — both due to ACL tears). However, the absence of Rondina and Nunag will be difficult to fill. Rondina narrowly missed a second MVP plum last conference and Nunag has blossomed into a highly reliable option since being acquired from the now-defunct Perlas Spikers.

Like in the case of Akari, it would do the Flying Titans well to sign a middle blocker as their import to share the floor with skipper Maddie Madayag, and although the wing position is decent with Isa Molde and Royse Tubino (Santiago-Manabat is projected to start at the opposite), the draft could still provide young blood that could help give its setters more choices.

Picking late limits Choco Mucho’s options but there could still be a wealth of talent deep in the opening round with another Lady Falcon in Ishie Lalongisip, a former libero turned into Adamson’s fiercest wing attacker.

Lalongisip may get overlooked by teams in the lottery, but she packs a wallop on her attacks that could have her leading the reserves when the Flying Titans need an extra lift off the bench. The most valuable contribution she could bring is her elite floor defense and it could be crucial in the late stretches of matches.

If still available, Choco Mucho might have the chance to nab Maicah Larroza of La Salle and even UP’s Jewel Encarnacion (both projected to be early picks).

For PLDT

The High-Speed Hitters have already brought in Samoilenko to pair up with high-scoring winger Savi Davison. This is already set in stone. Palomata does have an able fill-in — if it can be called that.

Veteran middle blocker Mika Reyes is said to be fully recovered from the shoulder injury that sidelined her from the All-Filipino Conference and Kim Kiana Dy is also ready to see action for the first time with the team that signed her for the rest of the year.

That now puts High-Speed Hitters in a position to draft the best available talent come July and they have a middle pick (6th to 8th).

The best available talent could come in the form of a young setter as the legendary duo of Kim Fajardo and Rhea Dimaculangan are slowly reverting to the mentorship stage of their careers.

Nathalie Nicole Ramacula is a Filipino-Canadian out of Red River College Polytechnic who had played five seasons in the Winnipeg V-League and is considered an offensive setter, akin to PLDT’s playmakers. She stands to benefit the most from being under the tutelage of arguably two of the best orchestrators in the history of the sport in the archipelago.

With so much talent (when healthy) on the High-Speed Hitters’ roster, the addition of Ramacula could be the solidifying factor that gets the team over the hump, and this could be the conference to get it done.

The upcoming PVL Draft Combine will shed much light on the talent that will be available for the first-ever staging of this process, which happens on June 25-26, while Alas Pilipinas will be among eight countries that will be competing in the upcoming FIVB Women’s Volleyball Challenger Cup on July 4-7 at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.

Banner images from UAAP Media Bureau.


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