THE inaugural tournament of the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) as a professional successfully came to a conclusion last Friday with the Chery Tiggo Crossovers crowned as Open Conference champion.
Done in a “bubble” setting in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte, the tournament saw the league conduct the proceedings under strict health and safety protocols in accordance with the guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the local government.
Save for an isolated case of the coronavirus involving one team which was eventually addressed and resolved, the rest of the participants were kept safe throughout the duration of the competition and the proceedings pushed through with minor hiccups.
“It was a lot of work [for all involved]. We’re thankful that it is finally over,” said Ricky Palou, president of PVL organizer Sports Vision Management Group, in a short text message to BusinessWorld following the conclusion of the tournament.
In the lead-up to their first pro season, Mr. Palou and his group made sure that they covered all bases in the preparation to ensure a successful staging of the tournament, with focus above all else on the safety of the players, organizers and the other people involved.
The league also chose to hold its bubble in Ilocos Norte in anticipation of possible disruption if it was held in the National Capital Region (NCR).
It was a move that proved to be the right one to make as the NCR was recently placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine and all sports-related activities were halted.
The PVL was forced to cram its schedule, playing everyday games, on its final week as cases of the coronavirus increased in Bacarra, but it was able to manage things and end the competition accordingly.
Chery Tiggo bested nine other teams in the Open Conference to win the title.
Led by sisters Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat, the Crossovers upended perennial PVL power team Creamline Cool Smashers in their best-of-three finals series that went the full route, 2-1.
Chery Tiggo completed the job in Game Three on Friday, coming from behind two sets down to win, 23-25, 20-25, 25-21, 25-23, 15-8.
The towering Santiago sisters stood tall literally, powering their team with clutch plays and eye-popping numbers.
Ms. Santiago-Manabat finished with a game-high 32 points — 30 coming off attacks.
Sister Jaja followed with 26 points, part of which came in their breakaway in the fifth and final set.
“Thanks to God. We really offer this to Him as He guided us and we showed what we are made of,” said Chery Tiggo coach Aaron Velez after their win.
Ms. Santiago won triple individual awards, bagging the tournament and the finals most valuable player award as well as being named one of the best middle blockers in the Open Conference.
Creamline’s Jia Morado was the best setter while Ms. Valdez and Petro Gazz’s Myla Pablo were the best outside hitters.
Ria Meneses of Petro Gazz was the other best middle blocker, with Kat Tolentino (Choco Mucho) and Kath Arado (Petro Gazz) named best opposite spiker and best libero, respectively.
The final rankings of the PVL Open Conference had Chery Tiggo on top, followed by Creamline, Petro Gazz Angels, Choco Mucho Flying Titans, Sta. Lucia Lady Realtors, Black Mamba-Army Lady Troopers, PLDT Home Fibr Power Hitters, BaliPure Water Defenders, Perlas Spikers, and Cignal HD Spikers.
Now that the Open Conference is over, Mr. Palou said they will soon return to planning for their next tournament, targeted to happen either in October or November in a semi-bubble setup in Metro Manila.
They are also expecting to add a new team in the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers, who asked to skip the recently concluded tournament but are looking to participate in the next.
The PVL turned professional late last year after years of operating as a semi-pro league. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo