The PVL Draft Combine: A Glimpse Into the Future of Women’s Pro Volleyball

The new PVL Draft Combine gives us a look into what the future holds for women’s volleyball in the Philippines.

Over the years, Filipinos have grown accustomed to witnessing Draft Combines. Since the advent of cable TV, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has already highlighted the incoming rookies and the processes they go through before draft day. Personally, I have been part of several Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Draft Combines since the first staging in 2004 where fresh talents Rich Alvarez, Joachim Thoss, and eventual league MVP James Yap underwent the various drills that determined speed, agility, jumping ability, among others.

When the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) announced that the 47 incoming rookies and free agents looking to be reinstated in the league would be going through something similar, it was met with a mix of skepticism and excitement. There had never been a Draft Combine for volleyball players before and to have the entire affair televised piqued the interest of the ever-growing volleyball community.

After two days that had the applicants go through a plethora of activities before leaving it all out on the and now leave it up to the 12-member teams to make selections in the upcoming PVL Draft on July 8.

Consensus top overall pick Thea Gagate of De La Salle University (DLSU) and Alas Pilipinas performed as expected, topping the Spike Approach Vertical Reach and dominating in her short scrimmage with the opening group on the second day. Her national/school teammate Julia Coronel also made noise by emerging as the top Standing Vertical Jump exercise (which makes her an asset as a blocker despite being a setter).

DLSU star Thea Gagate at the PVL Draft Combine. (Photo credit: PVL)

Returning DLSU opposite spiker Leila Cruz did not figure at the top of any leaderboard. Still, she showed she was fully healed from the knee injury that sidelined her from the Lady Spikers’ title defense in the last UAAP season. She finished fourth in the Spiker Approach Vertical Reach.

They are expected to be three of the four lottery picks. Zus Coffee (formerly Strong Group Athletics), Capital1 Solar Energy, and Galeries Towers own the first three selections in the PVL Draft while the Farm Fresh Foxies have the fourth pick.

One of the members of the Foxies coaching staff made it clear that they’d be looking for a setter to back-up sophomore playmaker Louie Romero. Adamson University’s orchestrator Angelica “Angge” Alcantara was among the setters who found herself in the top five in three categories and even emerged as the fastest in the 60-meter Shuttle Run. That puts her on the radar as a potential lottery selection.

Nikka Yandoc (Alcantara’s backup with the Lady Falcons) also showed tremendous maturity and was among the players who saw the most burn during the scrimmages (owing to the presence of only four registered setters among the PVL Draft applicants. She now is on another prime target in the first round. The same can be said about Adamson hopefuls Karen Verdeflor (the libero that impressed the scouts the most), Sharya Ancheta (the middle blocker that was among the most observed), and Ishie Lalongisip (the libero-turned-outside hitter that looked to be the most pro-ready).

Not to be outdone were Pierre Abellana of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) who also ranked in the top five in varying disciplines, Perpetual Help center Razel Aldea — who shed some weight heading into the proceedings and more than made up for lack of ceiling with her jumping ability and Filipino-Canadian enigma Aleiah Torres who was number in the Modified Agility Test and the 60-Second Push-Up Test.

Torres listed herself as an opposite spiker/libero and left out the fact that she actually played professional volleyball as a setter. She suddenly emerged as a dark in the first round and team officials indicated that they were interested in giving her a workout.

Perhaps the most intriguing development was DLSU’s Maica Larroza dressing as a libero despite the fact that was instrumental in the Lady Spikers’ Final Four run in UAAP Season 86 as an outside hitter that stepped in for Angel Canino during the latter’s recuperation from a minor injury.

Among the middle blockers, Arellano Univeristy’s Lorraine Pecaña drew much attention during the scrimmages as she played well above her 5’11” frame. The pair of Jewel Encarnacion and Steph Bustrillo from the University of the Philippines also impressed with their power-hitting to be among the wingers in consideration while iconic Ateneo libero Roma Mae Doromal also shaped up as a potential first-rounder with her usual gung-ho game.

After having done the rounds with members of the teams’ scouts, the non-lottery teams have declared their needs:

  • Nxled (5): wing spiker
  • Akari (6): middle blocker
  • Cignal (7): wing spiker/libero
  • PLDT (8): setter
  • Chery Tiggo (9): middle blocker/libero
  • Petro Gazz (10): best available talent
  • Choco Mucho (11): best available talent
  • Creamline: best available talent

According to PVL Commissioner Sherwin Malonzo, teams can have up to 20 members with 14 to dress on game days. The upcoming PVL Draft will be an incredible opportunity for the up-and-coming squads to beef up their line-up with talent that could become eventual franchise players.

In the next piece, we’ll dive into the team’s needs and probable selections. Yes, a mock draft.

Banner images from PVL.

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