A REVAMPED BaliPure side is eager to prove it belongs in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL), where the competition has become much tougher following the transfer of talent-laden teams from the Philippine Superliga.
The Water Defenders, powered by Peak Form and Philippine Confederation of Sports Development Inc., are parading a retooled roster for the Open Conference tentatively set in May led by returning top scorer Grazielle Bombita.
Bombita, who had a controversial transfer to Motolite in the 2019 Open Conference semifinals, has been given a second chance to lead the Water Defenders once again, reuniting with Shirley Salamagos and Sati Espiritu.
The trio are backed by a mix of young and veteran newcomers made up of University of Santo Tomas playmaker Alina Bicar, National University hitter Audrey Paran, Patty Orendain, Gyra Barroga, Gen Casugod, Lai Bendong, Roselle Baliton, Carly Hernandez, Alexa Rafael, Julia Angeles and Bien Juanillo.
Team manager Gil Cortez believes BaliPure, one of the longest-tenured member teams in the PVL, has what it takes to hold its odnw against the likes of F2 Logistics, Chery Tiggo, Sta. Lucia, Cignal and PLDT.
The first-ever PBA Rookie of the Year gave the players a pep talk in a Zoom session on Sunday evening, telling them there's no reason to be intimidated by the new teams.
“Ang sinabi ko sa kanila, ang makakalaban natin malalakas. Dalawa lang ang pwedeng gawin niyong players, it’s either lalaban ka or magpapasindak ka kasi karamihan ng mga kalaban ninyo may mga pangalan,” he told SPIN.ph.
“Yun ang sinasabi ko sa kanila. Kahit na saan pa kayo galing na probinsya at mga kalaban niyo may mga pangalan wag kayong papasindak, laban lang ng laban,” Cortez added.
BaliPure head coach John Abella said his players are eager to show that they are no longer pushovers after a winless 2019 Reinforced Conference campaign and an eighth-place finish out of nine squads in the Open Conference.
“Nung nakausap namin ang mga players, very eager sila to prove themselves. So I think, a fighting BaliPure team ang maasahan niyo,” he said.
BaliPure has been part of the pioneering league since the 2016 Shakey V-League, where Alyssa Valdez, Dzi Gervacio, Jem Ferrer and Denden Lazaro led the franchise to two straight bronze-medal finishes.
The Water Defenders ruled the inaugural PVL Open Conference in 2017 with head coach Roger Gorayeb and players Grethcel Soltones, Jasmine Nabor, Jerrili Malabanan and Risa Sato and finished with a silver medal in the Reinforced Conference.
Abella, who won three straight championships with Pocari Sweat from 2016 to 2017, is confident the Water Defenders have what it takes to compete against stronger teams.
“I think our lineup now medyo maganda ang height at mas versatile in terms of yung mga position na pwede nila laruin,” Abella said. “Ang ganda nga ng liga ngayon kasi makakalaban namin mga best of the best teams and players.”
The Water Defenders are set to start practice in small groups this week at the RIM Sports Center in Cubao, Quezon City which Abela said entails a big adjustment.
“Sobrang laking adjustment talaga not only sa part ng players but also sa part ng coaches yung ganyan guidelines,” he said. “Focus namin is to improve yung mga skills, na we think, need (more) improvement at siyempre yung chemistry ng mga players kahit five at a time lang ang pwede.”