NATIONAL Capital Region (NCR) kicked off its title defense on a winning note, beating Northern Luzon in three sets, 22-25, 25-16, 25-11, in the Shakey's Girls Volleyball League Season 11 Tournament of Champions Monday at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.
Represented by Hope Christian High School, the Metro Manila titlists took some time to get going against the bets from Baguio City National High School but regained their form in the second and third sets to escape with the win in Pool A.
"We haven't much practice session with our two guest players – Marian Buitre and Eden Maturan –yet and it showed in our slow start. But fortunately we clicked in the second and third sets," said NCR coach Jerry Yee in Pilipino.
Central Visayas, bannered by University of San Jose-Recoletos, also emerged victorious in its Pool B debut, dispatching Ateneo de Davao of Mindanao in straight sets, 25-19, 25-18.
The 11th staging of the tournament, which also features two foreign teams in New Zealand and Victoria from Australia, opened with Shakey's marketing manager Barbie Ocampo and Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia in attendance.
The tournament is backed by Mikasa, Asics, Tune Hotel, Burlington, BioFresh, Food Health and Science Magazine and organized by Metro Sports headed by Freddie Infante.
New Zealand used its height and experience to the hilt, essaying a 25-17, 25-12 rout of Southern Luzon leg winner La Salle-Lipa in the other contest.
The Kiwis struggled in the early going but settled down in time to blast the La Salle tossers and join the USJ-Recoletos side in the early lead in Pool B.
CVI stormed to a 12-2 lead in the opening frame but fell into a spate of errors, allowing Mindanao to catch up at 15-15 and even wrest the lead at 18-17.
But a timely timeout arrested CVI's mild skid as the Cebuanas came out of the huddle firing, winning eight of the next nine points to take the first set. They sustained the form in the second to secure the triumph.