MEN’S volleyball takes the spotlight again this weekend as the Spikers’ Turf unveils its new season with 11 teams eager to dispute the Open Conference crown at the Paco Arena in Manila.
A youth-laden National University-Sta. Elena swept Sta. Elena in last year’s finals of the country’s first and only men’s volleyball league, which marked its return from a three-year hiatus due to pandemic in explosive fashion, drawing huge crowds, particularly during the semis and championship series.
With four more squads joining the title chase beginning Sunday, it only underscores the continued growth of the league, which aims to produce talents who could be tapped, developed and trained to become members of future national teams.
“It’s really a blessing that we’re getting more teams interested in joining the Spikers’ Turf. We’re growing and this is a good sign. It just shows everybody that there really is interest not only in women’s volley but also in the men’s side. “ said Ricky Palou, president of the organizing Sports Vision, during the Philippine Sportswriters Association at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex on Tuesday.
Volleyball icon and league president Alyssa Valdez and tournament director Mozzy Ravena also graced the forum.
“Our aim is to really look for new talents for the sport to hopefully come up with a really good national team. So far, it’s slowly happening and we’re happy with the results and we hope it’s going to get bigger and we’re hoping to bring the Spikers’ Turf to greater heights,” Palou added.
While the Bulldogs, now supported by the Archipelago Builders, are back for another shot at the crown, they will have their hands full this time with star players Joshua Retamar and Nico Almendras begging off to anchor NU’s campaign in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 in February.
Cignal, PGJC-Navy, Philippine Army, VNS Volleyball Club and Santa Rosa City are also back in the fold with Air Force, one of the winningest teams in the league with three titles along with the HD Spikers, likewise making its keenly-awaited return after missing the action last year.
Making their debut are AMC Volleyball, City of Imus, D’ Navigators Iloilo and Vanguard Volleyball.
“Our tagline is “Where Power Meets Passion.” It’s very apt kasi ‘yung men’s volleyball alam naman natin hindi at par with popularity and support na nakukuha ng women’s volleyball so itong mga nakikita niyo dito (sa forum), lahat ito very passionate people and even the players and the people behind Sports Vision,” Ravena said.
Gamedays are on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays featuring two matches at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
“Mas maraming teams, mas mahirap yung competition. I think we will be the youngest team na magcocompete ngayon kasi I don’t think makakalaro yung UAAP players namin,” said NU assistant coach Dong Dela Cruz.
The top four teams after a single round robin elims will advance to the semifinals, another single round robin phase with the top two clashing for the championship, a best-of-three affair.
“Gusto po nating maipakita kung gaano ka-exciting and fun ‘yung men’s volleyball. We’re just really happy na hindi nagsasawa ‘yung mga teams and sponsors to be here, to be part of the Spikers’ Turf,” Valdez said.
Matches will be telecast live on One Sports, One Sports+, Cignal Play, and SMART Live Stream.
Gracing the PSA Forum were Cignal head coach Dexter Clamor, Imus head coach Sammy Acaylar, Santa Rosa assistant coach Carlos Cantor, D’ Navigators coordinator Francis Babon, Navy head coach Cecille Cruzada, Air Force head coach Jhim Merza, Army player Ken Baloaloa, Vanguard head coach Edjet Mabbayad, VNS head coach Ralph Ocampo, and NU’s Dela Cruz. AMC did not have any representative.
“Lahat naman ng teams (malakas) pero syempre ‘yung number one diyan ‘yung Imus, Cignal, AMC,” said Dela Cruz.
“Last season kasi alam mo na kung sinong magiging top four pero this time, hindi mo siya ma-[predict] kasi ang lalakas ng teams ngayon. Kung para sa akin, Imus, Cignal, NU, AMC,” said Cruzada, the lone female coach in the league.
Also in the forum was Von Reinhart Gaa, Cignal TV’s OIC for Channel Management and Programming for Sports.