IMPORTS take centercourt but focus will also be on Michele Gumabao as she looks to lead Pocari Sweat to a second title and Alyssa Valdez as she banners new team Bureau of Customs in the Shakey’s Season 13 Reinforced Conference opening on Saturday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
Gumabao and the Lady Warriors go for the Reinforced Conference title after ruling the Open Conference in their maiden appearance in the league.
Valdez’s Customs squad and six other teams look to foil the Warriors’ bid for a double.
Returning teams are Air Force, Coast Guard, Team Laoag, University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas and BaliPure.
“This being a single-round elims, each game is crucial, thus guaranteeing fierce action from the opening serve,” said Ricky Palou, president of the organizing Sports Vision.
“While the foreign players are likely to dominate, we also expect our local players to measure up, all in top form owing to our year-long three-conference calendar.”
Former league MVP Suzanne Roces will head BaliPure, FEU’s Wendy Semana will spearhead Air Force, Kathy Bersola leads UP, EJ Laure heads UST and Hazel Mea skippers Coast Guard.
Backing up Gumabao are Americans Andrea Kay Kacsits and Breanna Lee Mackie with Open Conference MVP Myla Pablo, Desiree Dadang, Melissa Gohing, Elaine Kasilag, Maricar Nepomuceno and Gyzel Sy providing the local support.
Valdez, a former two-time league MVP, is expected to draw solid backup from Thai players Kanjana Kuthaison and Natthanicha Jaisaen and local teammates Lilet Mabbayad, Menchie Tubiera and Michiko Castaneda.
BaliPure will be backstopped by Americans Kaylee Manns and Katharine Morrell with the Water Defenders also to lean on talented locals Rysabelle Devanadera, Mary Mae Tajima, Ella de Jesus, Dzi Gervacio, Jem Ferrer, Charo Soriano, Bea Tan, Amy Ahomiro and Denden Lazaro.
UP has also tapped a pair of imports with its local crew, headed by Bersola, Marian Buitre, Isa Molde, Mae Basarte, Justine Dorog, Diana Carlos and Nicole Tiamzon, upbeat of their chances coming off a strong third place finish in the last conference.
Coast Guard and Laoag will kick off hostilities in the 4 p.m. opener while Air Force and UST clash in the 6 p.m. match to be aired live over ABS-CBN Sports + Action Channel 23. The first match will be shown on a delayed basis although both matches can also be viewed live via streaming on www.v-league.ph.