PVL draft

The Winners and Winners of the Inaugural PVL Rookie Draft

From the players drafted to the 12 teams and even those who weren’t selected, everybody was a winner in this historic draft.

Let’s get the fact that only 23 of the 47 applicants to the first-ever Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Rookie Draft were selected out of the way. Volleyball icon Alyssa Valdez of the Creamline Cool Smashers consoled those left undrafted and lifted their spirits by saying their pursuit of a PVL career did not end Monday night but has only begun.

The 24 who also glammed up for the occasion now become free agents and can work out with all the teams in hopes of nabbing a roster spot. However, should any of them get signed, their Uniform Player’s Contract (UPC) could be on a per-conference basis.

That being said, there was much to like about the inaugural PVL Draft.

Everyone who showed up for the festivities at the Novotel Hotel in Quezon City—including the members of the media—dressed formally for the affair and none more glamorous were the aspirants who looked more like fashion models than would-be professional athletes.

“I’ve never spent so much time at a salon before, much less worn a gown,” one player said.

Now let’s dive deep into analyzing the Draft that went all the way to five rounds.

The DLSU Fab Four

True to most pundits’ claims, the trio of Thea Gagate (Zus Coffee), Leila Cruz (Capital1) and Julia Coronel (Galeries Tower) were the first three selections, but the first surprise came when De La Salle University reserve Maicah Larroza got picked fourth by Farm Fresh.

To no one’s surprise, Taft Tower Thea Gagate went first overall by the Zus Thunderbelles. (PVL Media Bureau)

Many had the diminutive spiker as a late in the first round or early in the second round, but she did dress as a libero during the scrimmage portion of the PVL Draft Combine a few weeks back. If she does remain a floor patroller, Larroza will be the fourth in that position for the Foxies after Cae Lazo, Juju Angeles, and youngster Janel Delerio. As an outside hitter, she’ll have to earn a spot versus the likes of Kate Santiago, Chinnie Arroyo, Alyssa Bertolano, Ypril Tapia, and (currently) Colombian import Yeny Murillo.

Newly installed Farm Fresh head coach Shota Sato must have a plan for investing in Larroza like coach Yeng Guiao of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters had in the 2015 PBA Draft when he went for enigmatic Maverick Ahanmisi with the third overall pick. Ahamisi eventually turned out to be an above-average basketball talent.

With four Ramil de Jesus products landing the first slots in the draft, it is a testament to the solid program the Lady Spikers have developed over the years and could pave the way for future applicants such as Shevana Laput, Amy Provido, and Jyn Sorreño for also becoming lottery considerations.

The Adamson Sweep

All seven applicants from Adamson University were selected as they proved to be the most pro-ready bunch outside of La Salle.

UAAP Season 86 skipper Lucille Almonte was the fifth overall pick by Nxled. The Lady Falcons then proceeded to be called one after the other from picks seven to ten with converted outside hitter Ishie Lalongisip going to Cignal, setter Angge Alcantara to PLDT, libero Karen Verdeflor to Chery Tiggo while Petro Gazz got opposite hitter AA Adolfo.

The drafting of Almonte was already writing on the wall as Chameleons mentor Raffy Mosuela intimated to the media that the team was in search of the most veteran wing attacker. Almonte was the understudy of Trisha Genesis during their time in Adamson and now can rekindle that partnership in Nxled.

Adamson skipper Lucille Almonte was one of several Lady Falcons picked in the draft. (PVL Media Bureau)

Cignal needed a wing spiker (to compensate for Vanie Gandler’s temporary absence) and a libero (ditto for Dawn Macandili-Catindig). Coach Shaq de los Santos went for Lalongisip as she actually can play both positions. She was the Lady Falcons libero in UAAP Season 83 and should returning reinforcement MJ Perez prove to still be elite in the wing, Lalongisip could initially end up splitting time with veteran Jheck Dionela.

Verdeflor going to Chery Tiggo was another mysterious selection.

Already loaded with two iconic floor patrollers in 2021 titlist Buding Duremdes and Alas’ Jen Nierva, Verdeflor—arguably the best libero in the pool—will serve as a backup plan in case Nierva returns to Alas. It is unclear how Verdeflor will fit in a team that initially was out to pursue a middle blocker.

For Petro Gazz, landing Adolfo added versatility to their squad. Aiza Maizo-Pontillas is still rocking it like a 20-year-old while her prime backup in Mich Morente still provides quality minutes. With Adolfo, though, the Angels get length and speed in that position, and (depending on the import they bring in), a speed unit featuring Korea veteran MJ Phillips, reigning MVP Brooke Van Sickle, and Adolfo could be in the offing. Petro Gazz still hasn’t addressed their lack of depth at libero, though.

Sharya Ancheta (2nd round – Zus Coffee) and Nikka Yandoc (3rd round – Zus Coffee) ensured that all the Lady Falcons that applied would get at least an offer sheet to play in the league.

The Bustrillo Factor

Flying under the radar for the University of the Philippines (UP) for the first three years of her tenure, Steph Bustrillo suddenly became the biggest sleeper in the draft class after a superb showing for the Fighting Maroons in UAAP Season 86 and a decent showing during the PVL Draft Combine. It was therefore a mild surprise when the Akari Chargers picked the Cebuana 6th overall.

UP’s Steph Bustrillo went to the Akari Chargers. (PVL Media Bureau)

The 5’9” opposite hitter further fortifies the Chargers’ length up front and could earn valuable backup minutes behind American import Olouma Okaro, although she may still have to compete against Eli Soyud and Camille Victoria. New acquisition Ivy Lacsina will most definitely be a fixture in the outside hitter spot as the Chargers have a new problem to deal with: depth. This will be more evident once Fifi Sharma and Faith Nisperos return from their Alas duties.

Newly transferred coach Taka Minowa now has to mold his jigsaw pieces together ASAP as the PVL Reinforced Conference is just around the corner.

The Aleiah Enigma

During the PVL Draft Combine, Aleiah Torres—an unknown asset from Winnipeg – impressed coaches and scouts after she topped the push-ups drill and figured well in the agility process. However, during draft night, it seemed that no one wanted to take a risk on this enigma. That opened the door for the Cool Smashers—a team that actually needed a backup opposite spiker—to nab the 26-year-old as the last selection of the first round.

Looking over at their table after Creamline picked Torres, it appeared that she and Valdez hit it off right away.

Mystery woman Aleiah Torres is now teammates with Alyssa Valdez. (PVL Media Bureau)

Torres listed herself as a libero/opposite spiker during the Combine and while her libero skills were prevalent, her hitting skills were subpar. Listed at only 5’4”, battling for minutes in the opposite spiker’s role against multi-awarded Tots Carlos, Michele Gumabao and even multi-faceted American import Erica Staunton would be a tall order.

As a libero, Torres has a solid track record for the Brock Badgers and can also be a setter, making her a well-rounded fit for coach Sherwin Meneses’ system.

Creamline gained a hard-working athlete with international experience. That’s a major coup picking last in the first round.

The Second Round Sleepers

The six players selected in the second are all impactful and could be an important piece for the franchises that got them.

Ancheta could very well get starter’s minutes for Zus Coffee alongside Joy Onofre at the middle blocker position while Gagate is still with Alas. Roma Mae Doromal will probably be in a timeshare with Bingle Landicho as libero for Roger Gorayeb’s Capital1.

It was surprising to see UP captain Jewel Encarnacion and University of Santo Tomas (UST) high-flyer Pierre Abellana drop to the second round, but they could be starters for Galeries Tower and Farm Fresh, respectively.

Perpetual Help’s Razel Aldea—though undersized at the middle blocker position—was among the head-turners during the Combine and could be vying for playing time against regular starter Krich Macaslang and former Fighting Maroon Jai Atienza, while Petro Gazz’s final stab at the draft was for the selection of Arellano University playmaker Donnalyn Paralejas, who—like Aldea—used her hot showing in the Combine to get a crack at earning minutes against the likes of Djanel Cheng, Ivy Perez and veteran Chie Saet.

Biggest Winner: Zus Coffee

In less than three hours, the Thunderbelles acquired the rights to the best player in the draft (Thea Gagate), a decent middle blocker (Shar Ancheta), a heady setter (Nikka Yandoc) and a decent libero (Jenina Zeta of the University of the East with the 22nd overall pick). After getting the services of Kurashiki Ablaze star Asaka Tamaru at the opposite spikers’ spot, wingers like skipper Dolly Versoza and the Benilde tandem of Jade Gentapa and Gayle Pascual now have a lot of help to be a contender this coming PVL Reinforced Conference and once Gagate is in their fold, they’ll have a clear shot at the playoffs for years to come.

2nd Biggest Winner: Choco Mucho

The Flying Titans will be without scoring machine Sisi Rondina and middle blocker Cherry Nunag for the PVL Reinforced Conference. Coach Dante Alinsunurin and the Choco Mucho management addressed the Rondina issue by bringing in international stalwart Zoi Faki of Greece. Then they used the draft to somehow land the second-best middle blocker (at the 11th pick) in Lorraine Pecaña. The Arellano University ace is six feet tall and was among the stars of the Combine. How Pecaña landed on their laps deep in the first round is a mystery, but her acquisition addresses the Nunag issue. Well played, Choco Mucho.

3rd Biggest Winner: Capital1

Coach Roger has always been a winner but hasn’t made much of a dent in his return to the PVL. By using his allotted picks magnificently on Cruz (OP), Doromal (L), and hard-hitting Gilliana Torres (OH-3rd round, DLSU) not only have the Solar Spikers added depth, but have also built for the future.

The PVL Reinforced Conference opens on July 16, albeit devoid of some of its usual big names on loan to Alas Pilipinas.

But the process of the PVL Draft has just ushered in a new era in professional women’s volleyball, and with the league’s leadership always keen on upping the ante, the PVL Draft will be the backbone of catapulting youngsters to the next level.

Banner Image from FIVB.

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