The returning F2 Logistics Cargo Movers and new franchise Akari Chargers will join the seven regular member teams for the two-month, import-flavored Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Reinforced Conference that opens on Saturday, October 8th at the Sta. Rosa Sports Complex in Laguna.
American ace Lindsay Stalzer is back for her eighth tour of duty in the Philippines. Her stint here started in 2014 when she debuted for the Cignal HD Spikers.
“I’m excited to get this (tournament) going,” the 38-year-old veteran told The Rivalry in an exclusive interview. “Something was left undone (when COVID cut my last assignment here short) so I’m back to finish what I started.”
Stalzer, now the most senior of the reinforcements, was also named F2 Logistics team captain for this season and the club will be fielding Kalei Mau, who is back in the country after a two-year hiatus.
Mau, who was part of the national team during the 2019 ASEAN Grand Prix, has been declared eligible to rejoin the national program in 2021 after serving her two-year residency. This will be the 27-year-old Fil-Hawaiian’s first tour of duty in the PVL.
“She’s in the country and has been training with the team,” F2 Logistics Team Manager Holly Reyes shared. “She’ll play on Tuesday (October 10th).”
PVL President Ricky Palou announced that the Challenge System will be implemented for this conference but the system will be arriving several days into the tournament.
“The system will be arriving from Italy,” PVL Marketing Director Fred Fateh said in addressing the query. “It could take a couple of weeks but it will be in use immediately after its arrival.”
The format for this conference will have the nine competing teams play a single round-robin with the top four teams advancing to the semifinals. Once in that phase, the teams’ win-loss records will be reset and another single round-robin ensues with the top two teams meeting in the best-of-three finals. This will bring the tournament to an end towards the first week of December.
Sta. Rosa, the PhilSports Arena and the Ynares Center in Antipolo City have been named competition venues while the league is still mulling over the possibility of adding more venues such as the Ninoy Aquino Stadium (NAS) into the equation.
The last time the PVL had its Reinforced Conference was in 2019 when the upstart Petro Gazz Angels upset the powerhouse Creamline Cool Smashers in the finals.
The Angels only have two returning players from that championship squad in skipper Chi Saet and libero Cienne Cruz. Their reinforcement for this outing is American Lindsey Vander Weide, a 6’3” outside hitter who has played extensively in the Hungarian pro circuit. She is the youngest import of this batch at 24.
Creamline, fresh from two international stints that aided their preparations for this tournament, will have 35-year-old Yeliz Basa from Turkey who has had international experience playing in nine countries including stops in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.
The Cool Smashers’ team captain Alyssa Valdez was also in attendance after missing time due to varying illnesses, but claims she’s in tip-top shape for the upcoming competition.
“It’s great to be back,” the six-time PVL MVP told The Rivalry. “I was really sad missing time with the team, but that’s in the past. I’m ready to go.”
Akari Team Manager Mozzy Ravena was upbeat but grounded about Akari’s first sortie in the pro ranks.
“We’re starting from the bottom so there are really no grand expectations,” she said. “It really helps us that we have an import who is actually training to be a coach so she serves as another mentor to our very young team.”
The Chargers have signed three-time Dominican Republic Olympian Prisilla Rivera, a 37-year-old who amassed ten international gold medals in her days with the national team in various tilts and has been playing professionally since the age of 14. She is a 6’1” outside hitter. Rivera is said to have undergone Level 3 coaching training prior to her arrival here.
The other imports are Tai Bierria of the United States, a 6’1” 25-year-old opener out of New Mexico who has had appearances in Finland and France for Cignal, s got Elena Samoilenko, a 6’4” 27-year-old out of Russia for the PLDT High-Speed Hitters, and Laura Condotta, a 5’10” outside hitter from the Canadian national beach volleyball team for United Auctioneers-Army. Meanwhile, the Choco Mucho Flying Titans have elicited the services of Odina Aliyeva of the Azerbaijan national team, a 32-year-old 6’1” outside spiker while the Chery Tiggo Crossovers will be parading Jelena Cvijovic, a 29-year-old winger from Montenegro.
Among the locals present were Saet, Valdez, Akari’s young skipper Michelle Cobb, Cignal’s perpetual skipper Rachel Anne Daquis, PLDT’s Mika Reyes, Jovelyn Gonzaga of the Lady Troopers, Choco Mucho’s Bea de Leon and Mylene Paat of the Crossovers. F2 Logistics did not send a local representative to these proceedings owing to a training session that coincided with this event.
All coaches were also present in the gathering.
The opening matches have PLDT locking horns with UA-Army at 2:30PM while Akari will immediately be tested by the HD Spikers at 5:30PM.