GRETCHEL Soltones hopes to sustain her strong performance in the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference as she banners San Sebastian’s bid against a vastly-improved Perpetual Help in Saturday's opener of Season 13 Collegiate Conference at the Ynares Arena in Pasig City.
Though BaliPure failed to advance to the finals in the season-opening conference of the league, Soltones still ran away with the MVP trophy.
Now the jump-serving, power-hitting ace is eager to steer the Lady Stags to a strong finish after missing the semis in last year’s edition of the event won by National University.
"We're a veteran team and I have faith in my teammates that we’ll do better this conference," said the 20-year-old Soltones, a native of San Jose, Catmon in Cebu and a fourth year Business Management student.
Soltones' team didn't fare well in this conference last year after she was temporarily switched into a libero from her natural position as a spiker to rest her injured shoulder. SSC won just once in five outings and crashed out of the quarterfinals of the tournament sponsored by Shakey’s.
But Soltones and the Lady Stags have vowed to strike back this time, starting against the Perpetual Help Lady Altas in the 6 p.m. main game of an explosive twinbill.
Perpetual Help surprised the field when it made the Final Four in last year’s NCAA despite parading a youthful roster headed by Jamela Suyat. The Lady Altas are upbeat of their chances against nine other squads in this conference backed by Mikasa as the league’s official ball and Accel as official outfitter.
University of the Philippines, meanwhile, faces first-timer San Beda at 4 p.m. with the Lady Maroons raring to showcase their vastly improved form following a third place finish in last year’s Reinforced Conference and a strong showing in the recent Open tournament.
The young Lady Maroons also defied the odds to reach the UAAP Final Four on a team built around Kat Bersola, Isa Molde, Justine Dorog, Diana Mae Carlos, Nicole Anne Tiamzon and Marian Alisa Buitre.
But the San Beda Red Spikers are also out to make an impression with a hungry team spearheaded by the Viray twins – Nieza and Jiezela. Team captain Janine Marciano, however, won’t be around as she’s with a group that includes Alyssa Valdez holding a camp in Guam.
The 10 teams are divided into two groups with NU, Ateneo, SSC, Technological Institute of the Philippines and Perpetual making up Group A and reigning NCAA champion St. Benilde, San Beda, UP and and league pioneers Far Eastern U and University of Santo Tomas in Group B.
The top three after the single round elims, along with their records, will advance to the quarterfinals with the top four moving into the semis. The No. 1 will meet the No. 4 squad while the No. 2 and 3 teams will dispute the other finals berth in a pair of best-of-three series.
All Shakey’s V-League games, set Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, will be shown live on ABS-CBN Sports + Action Channel 23, according to the organizing Sports Vision. Matches can also be viewed live via streaming on www.v-league.ph.
Meanwhile, the Spikers' Turf Season 2 Collegiate Conference, which features 12 teams, likewise begins today with La Salle battling St. Benilde at 11 a.m. and UP tangling with NCAA runner-up Emilio Aguinaldo College at 1 p.m.
La Salle and St. Benilde are in Group A along with FEU, NU, Phl Merchant Marine School and Perpetual Help while UP and EAC are in Group B alongside National College of Business and Arts, San Beda, UP and Santo Tomas.
(Ynares Sports Arena)
11 a.m. – St. Benilde vs La Salle (S Turf)
1 p.m. – UP vs EAC (S Turf)
4 p.m. – UP vs San Beda (V-League)
6 p.m. – San Sebastian vs Perpetual Help (V-League)