THE anticipation for the Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference is on a sky high with the entry two new teams, and a comebacking club to go along with two foreign guests.
The mid-season tournament will kick off on June 27 at the Filoil EcoOil Centre.
Defending champion Creamline, which beat Chinese-Taipei side KingWhale in the one-game final last year, headlines the stacked 13-team Invitational cast.
The Cool Smashers hope to move closer for a Grand Slam, which they failed to achieve last season, but it won’t be easy.
Farm Fresh and Gerflor will make its PVL debut, while Foton will make its return to the club volleyball scene after a long three-year hiatus.
“With volleyball in the country growing by leaps and bounds over the past decade, we feel that it’s about time to increase the number of member teams in the PVL,” said league president Ricky Palou.
“This will not only bring more excitement for our fans but also provide players with more opportunities to have a career in volleyball. The new teams are also committed to staying with us in the long term,” he added.
Featuring the core of reigning two-time NCAA champion College of Saint Benilde team, Farm Fresh will have Jerry Yee as head coach in its initial foray in the league.
“The PVL is a big platform to introduce our product, which is the first real fresh milk in the market,” said Foxies team manager Janica Lao.
“Though we are a new team, chemistry won’t be a problem for us since the Lady Blazers never really stopped training even after the NCAA season,” she added.
Gayle Pascual and Jade Gentapa, the Finals MVP in the last two NCAA seasons, together with Cloanne Mondoñedo, Jessa Dorog, Michelle Gamit, Zam Nolasco and comebacking Mycah Go will banner the Foxies.
The Defenders, meanwhile, will feature a mix of veterans and young players and will be coached by Edgar Barroga.
“We are thrilled to finally be a part of the PVL. We have organized and participated in several leagues to qualify for the opportunity to compete in the PVL, which we believe is the most prestigious league in the country. Being a part of the PVL is already an honor and accomplishment for our volleyball club,” said Gerflor team manager Jordan Tolentino.
Gerflor has a bevy of hitters who are eyeing to make an immediate impact in their return to the PVL in Mina Aganon-Digal, Justine Dorog, Jannine Navarro and Raprap Aguilar, while Alyssa Bertolano and Ethan Arce, formerly from University of the Philippines, will make their pro debut.
The Tornadoes, meanwhile, are looking forward to slug it out against the league’s heavyweights.
“We are happy that the league and the member teams allowed us to join starting with the Invitational Conference,” said team manager Aaron Velez.
“With two teams, this will give our company added exposure and our players a chance to further hone their skills,” he added.
The Tornadoes have yet to reveal their players for the second conference.
All 11 local teams will be split into two groups.
Group A will be composed of Creamline, Chery Tiggo, PLDT, Akari, and Gerflor, while Group B will consist of Petro Gazz, F2 Logistics, Choco Mucho, Cignal, Farm Fresh and Foton.
The top two teams in each pool will advance to the round-robin semifinals, along with the two foreign teams. Teams from the same pool will carry over their head-to-head record into the second round.
The top two teams will advance to the winner-take-all gold medal match, while the third and fourth-ranked teams will compete for the bronze.
Those teams that do not advance to the next round will move to the classification phase. However, the sixth-placed squad in Pool B will automatically be ranked 13th.