By Jean Malanum
MANILA – The Spikers’ Turf will kick off its new season on Jan. 21 with 11 teams fighting for the Open Conference title at the Paco Arena in Manila.
National University (NU)-Sta. Elena was crowned champion last year after beating Cignal HD.
“With more teams, we expect a tougher competition,” said NU assistant coach Dong dela Cruz during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the ground floor of the Philippine Sports Commission building inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex on Tuesday.
“I think we will be the youngest team to compete because I don’t think our UAAP players can join,” he added.
The Bulldogs, now sponsored by Archipelago Builders, will miss Joshua Retamar and Nico Almendras as both will banner NU’s campaign in the UAAP Season 85 next month.
Also participating in the country’s first and only men’s volleyball league organized by Sports Vision are Cignal, PGJC-Navy, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Army, VNS Volleyball Club, Santa Rosa City and newcomers AMC Volleyball, City of Imus, D’ Navigators Iloilo and Vanguard Volleyball Team.
“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,” Sports Vision President Ricky Palou said.
“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,” he added.
Palou was joined in the weekly forum by Spikers’ Turf president Alyssa Valdez, tournament director Mozzy Ravena and Von Reinhart Gaa, Cignal TV’s OIC for Channel Management and Programming for Sports.
“Our tagline is ‘Where Power Meets Passion.’ It’s very apt because we know that men’s volleyball is not at par with the popularity and support women’s volleyball get so what you see here (forum), all of them are very passionate people and even the players and the people behind Sports Vision,” said Ravena, a former UST volleyball player and mother of basketball players Kiefer and Thirdy.
Games schedule are Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays with two matches at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Teams will play in a single round robin elimination round.
The top four with advance to the semifinal, which is another single round robin stage with the top two meeting in the best-of-three finals.
“We want to show how exciting and fun men’s volleyball is. We’re just really happy that teams and sponsors don’t get tired to be here, to be part of the Spikers’ Turf,” said Valdez, who played for Ateneo in the UAAP.
Also present 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 and VNS head coach Ralph Ocampo. AMC has no representative.
“Last season, you already know who will be in the to four. But this time, you cannot predict because the teams are stronger now. For me, Imus, Cignal, NU, AMC,” said Cruzada, the league’s only female coach.
Matches will be telecast live on One Sports, One Sports+, Cignal Play, and SMART Live Stream. (PNA)