THREE-peat seeking Ateneo and six-time champion University of Santo Tomas collide in an early clash of the fancied teams marking the opener of the Season 10 of the Shakey’s V-League First Conference on Sunday at The Arena in San Juan City.
The Lady Eagles enter the event with an intact roster beefed up by two of the league’s former stars in Rachel Anne Daquis and Leal Patnongon, while former MVP Aiza Maizo and Rhea Dimaculangan return to lead the Tigresses’ title campaign in the country’s premier women’s volleyball tournament.
Gametime is at 2 p.m. after an elaborate 1 p.m. opening rites to be graced by Philippine Olympic Committee board member Frank Elizalde and San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez.
National University, which tapped the services of top high school standout Jaja Santiago and former San Sebastian ace Rubie de Leon, and newcomer Arellano University square off in the other match at 4 p.m.
“We were thinking of giving the fans something to look forward to as we celebrate our 10th season,” said Moying Martelino, chair of the organizing Sports Vision. “We feel that our opening day games will set the tone for this year’s title chase… tight, fierce and down-to-the-wire.”
Ten teams are seeing action with the field divided into two groups. The top four from each side will advance to the quarters after the single-round eliminations.
The Last 8 will again be split into two groups and play a single round with the top two teams in each group clashing in a pair of crossover semis. Winners will then clash for the crown in another best-of-three affair.
In Group A are Ateneo, UST, San Sebastian, Letran and La Salle-Dasmarinas, while Perpetual, National U, Adamson, Arellano and USC make up Group B.
The Chiefs have acquired the services of former MVPs Mary Jean Balse and Nerissa Bautista in the league sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza and backed by Mikasa and Accel.
Adamson, a former two-time winner, debuts on Tuesday against top Visayan team University of San Carlos-Cebu while Letran, backstopped by Thai ace Patcharee Sangmuang and Melissa Ogana, battles the league’s other new team in La Salle-Dasmariñas.
San Sebastian, also a former two-time champion, will have import Jeng Bualee and former MVP Sue Roces and will open its campaign on April 11 against Ateneo.