CREAMLINE opens its campaign without star setter Jia de Guzman against sister team Choco Mucho as the season-ending Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference begins on October 15 at the fabled Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Eyeing a reprise of their first conference conquest last April, the Cool Smashers are bracing for a game Flying Titans side toughened by their stint in the VTV Cup in Vietnam at 7 p.m., the first meeting between the league’s popular clubs since Valentine’s Day.
Sister teams PLDT and Cignal take the floor at 5 p.m., right after Gerflor battles debuting Nxled at 3 p.m.
It will be the first time that PVL will hold two All-Filipino tournaments in a season.
A record 12-team cast, surpassing the 11-local squad field that saw action in the last Invitational Conference won by guest team Kurashiki of Japan, which beat Creamline in a thriller of a finale last July.
Foiled in their bid for women’s volleyball’s version of a Grand Slam for the second straight season, the Cool Smashers are keen on winning another All-Filipino jewel although they will have to accomplish the mission without De Guzman.
Kyle Negrito will have a big shoes to fill for De Guzman, who recently signed up with Japan V.League top-tier club Denson Airybees.
Still, Creamline has a solid cast with Tots Carlos, Jema Galanza, Alyssa Valdez, Ced Domingo and Jeanette Panaga as they try to give Negrito the needed confidence.
But Choco Mucho will be a tough rival to hurdle with the energetic Sisi Rondina raring to soar again in its bid to achieve a breakthrough podium finish in the PVL.
Rondina and Maddie Madayag, who played huge roles in the Cool Smashers third place finish in the Vietnam tournament, will rely on Deanna Wong’s playmaking, which improved this season.
The Chameleons will get a boost with setter Camille Kal orchestrating plays. Nxled has acquired hitters Lycha Ebon, Chiara Permentilla and Jho Maraguinot along with middles Camille Victoria and Krich Macaslang from sister team Akari.
But expect the Defenders to step up despite losing vital cogs Jannine Navarro, Raprap Aguilar, Justine Dorog, Alyssa Bertolano and AJ Jingco, who moved to other teams during the conference break.
The High Speed Hitters-HD Spikers clash also looms to be a toss-up with a crew of veterans spiking the two teams’ respective title campaigns.
Meanwhile, Chery Tiggo, bannered by Eya Laure and Mylene Paat, tangles with Farm Fresh at 3 p.m. on October 17 at the Big Dome with F2 Logistics, featuring Ivy Lacsina and Myla Pablo, colliding with Akari at 5 p.m. and PetroGazz squaring off with the other league newcomer Galeries at 7 p.m.
Format is a single round robin eliminations with the top four advancing to the semifinal round, a round-robin format. The winners will dispute the championship in a best-of-three playoff.