THE presence of two good Thai imports has readily established Sandugo as the team to beat in the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference that kicks off on Sunday at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.
The consensus was made by four of the six coaches of the competing teams in the tournament that runs up until September 28.
Thai players Jang Bualee and Utaiwan Kaensing, both veterans of the V-League, banner the Sandugo squad of champion coach Roger Gorayeb.
“The defending champion is Philippine Army, but if you look at the lineups, it looks like Sandugo is a formidable team. We think they will be the team to beat,” said Ricky Palou, president of the organizing Sports Vision in the weekly PSA Forum.
“Sandugo has good locals and two Thai imports,” added the Ateneo sports official heading to the exciting volleyball tournament now on its ninth season.
Other than the two Thai players, Sandugo also boasts of local stars Nene Bautista, Suzanne Roces, Angela Benting and Rubie De Leon.
“If you base it on talent and experience, Sandugo is the team to beat. But it will still depend if they will be able to perform,” said FEU assistant Shaq delos Santos.
Also vying for the women’s volleyball crown are Ateneo, Cagayan province, Far Eastern University, Philippine Navy and defending champion Philippine Army.
The opening-day game pits reigning titlist Army against Navy at 2 p.m., followed by the Cagayan de Oro-FEU tussle (4 p.m.), and the Sandugo-Ateneo showdown at 6 p.m.
Army coach Digoy de Guzman said it will be difficult for them to keep the crown because of a depleted lineup of only seven players so close to the tournament.
“We’re still looking for players to complete our lineup,” he said.
Sports Vision chairman Moying Martelino also bared their plans to put up a commercial volleyball tournament next year if they find the needed support.
“The plan itself is very exciting. And as partners with the V League, I would say there’s a high chance we’d be moving toward that direction,” said Shakey’s operations manager Caloy Robles.
Games will be played Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Format calls for a double-round elimination leading to the best-of-three crossover semis.
The finals of the tournament also sponsored by Accel and Mikasa wil be a best-of-three affair, according to Martelino.