I have been one of the game announcers for the Premier Volleyball League since it restarted at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte last year.
Among the games in my assigned schedule for the ongoing Reinforced Conference was the November 8 twin-bill featuring the United Auctioneers-Army Lady Troopers match against the Choco Mucho Flying Titans in the first match and the first ever meeting between the Creamline Cool Smashers and the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers.
Many subplots came into play when the PVL unveiled that this week’s Tuesday double-header would be capped by the battle between the two five-time titlists (Creamline won all of those in the PVL while the Cargo Movers snared theirs in the now defunct Philippine Superliga).
For starters, the venue of the battle would be at the Smart Araneta Coliseum—long renowned as the Mecca of Philippine sports.
It would also be the first time Creamline skipper Alyssa Valdez would be playing in that venue since her collegiate days with the Ateneo de Manila University where six times the Blue Eagles battled rivals De La Salle University (DLSU) for the UAAP women’s crown where the Lady Spikers took down four of those championship duels.
Her collegiate career came to a close with La Salle hoisting the trophy after dethroning her squad in Season 78 on the very floor she returned to in seven years.
The import match-up was also tantalizing with 32-year-old Yeliz “Hielo” Basa of Turkey—one of the more emotional reinforcements in the conference—going up against veteran Lindsay Stalzer who over her eight stints has proven to be more machine than human on the court.
With these and many storylines in the mix, fans flocked to the Big Dome to witness the realization of a long-awaited encounter years in the making.
However, the officials of Sports Vision Management Group, Inc. (SVMGI), the entity that created and operates the league, would have no idea how big this simple Tuesday regular season tiff would turn out to be.
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Not only did the “official” audience count read 8,595 (one of the biggest non-championship weekday crowds in the venue’s recent history), but the match went the distance and left the thousands in attendance hoarse and exhausted as the countless watching on the various broadcast mediums began posting on social media that this contest was perhaps the best game of the season and even perhaps in PVL history.
But more than the game was the actual experience of being right smack in the middle of that throng of passion, in that cacophony of cheers akin to a rivalry that felt like it was molded over years.
I have been in many huge sporting events in my nearly three decades in business, but I had never been so captivated by the fan participation in a match where no trophy was at stake. It was as if they were all invested heavily in their support of their respective loyalties so much so that if their energy waned for just a moment, it could cost their team a point, the momentum or even the match.
I did my best to do my duties with the energy the crowd dictated. It felt to me that they were in control of the entire experience and when the Cargo Movers completed their comeback from being two sets down for a 22-25, 23-25, 25-20, 25-19, 15-11 result to deal Creamline its first defeat of the conference, both camps applauded the efforts of all the protagonists.
Many fans hope that these two celebrated clubs will eventually meet in the championship—although teams like the red-hot Chery Tiggo Crossovers and defending champions Petro Gazz Angels may have something to say about that. Seeing the quality showcased by both teams with almost equal determination to win for their fans was the highlight of the evening.
Volleyball won on Tuesday night and I was grateful to be part of the start of a saga that could enthrall for generations to come.
(Photo from PVL Media Bureau)