HIGHLY-favored Sandugo Sandals takes on first conference champion Ateneo in a potentially thrilling match up in the opener of the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference that kicks off Sunday at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.
Four former MVPs will lead the Sandugo charge, making them the obvious favorite over the Lady Eagles in the 6 p.m. main game of a scheduled triple header.
Two-time MVPs Jang Bualee, Suzanne Roces and Nene Bautista, together with 2009 winner Rhea Dimaculangan are expected to provide the firepower for Sandugo.
The powerhouse squad of coach Roger Gorayeb also boasts of another Thai in Utaiwan Kaensing –- adjudged as Best Attacker in the first conference -- along with Rubie de Leon (best server), Angela Benting (best scorer 2009), and 2010 first conference most improved player Joy Benito.
But the Lady Eagles are not to be discounted especially after toppling six-time V League champion University of Santo Tomas during the first conference finals last June.
And like Sandugo, Ateneo also has a solid line up led by Season 9 first conference MVP Alyssa Valdez, former MVP Jem Ferrer, two-time Best Digger Denden Lazaro, and former Most Improved Player Fille Cainglet.
Meanwhile, it’s going to be a showdown among military teams as Philippine Navy battles defending champion Philippine Army in the 2 p.m. opening game.
Last year’s first conference MVP Rachel Anne Daquis banners the Army side together with the vaunted Carolino sisters, Michelle and Mayeth.
The Navy, on the other hand, will be led by three-time best blocker Micmic Laborte Janet Serafica, and veteran Ers Iratay.
In the second game at 4p.m., Far Eastern University collides with newcomer Cagayan Province.
The Lady Tamaraws will have former UST star Angeline Tabaquero as guest player to complement mainstays Iris Patrona, Mari Toni Basas, Wenneth Eulalio, libero Charlene Gillego and team captain Gyzelle Sy.
Cagayan Valley will pin its hopes on first conference Most Improved Player Sandra delos Santos, Nicollete Tabafunda, and Jheck-Jheck Dionela.
All six teams will play a double-round elimination, the top four squads advancing to the crossover semis, with no.1 playing no. 4, and no. 2 facing no. 3 in a similar best-of-three series.
Winners of the series will arrange a best-of-three showdown for the title.
Games will be played on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.