PVL: Chery Tiggo ready to work their way back to the top

The Chery Tiggo Crossovers will open their title defense on Wednesday. PVL Media Bureau.
The Chery Tiggo Crossovers will open their title defense on Wednesday. PVL Media Bureau.

MANILA, Philippines — The Chery Tiggo Crossovers are arguably flying under the radar ahead of the 2022 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference, where they will defend their championship.

The Crossovers triumphed last year by outlasting the Creamline Cool Smashers in a thrilling three-game series, with the deciding match going down the wire. Powered by sisters Jaja and Dindin Santiago, the Crossovers dismantled the Cool Smashers in five sets to emerge as champions of the PVL’s first conference as a professional league.

They face a new challenge in the 2022 season of the PVL, with Creamline bringing back the core of its team to try and regain the crown. Other teams made a bevy of moves in the offseason to add firepower, and a powerhouse squad in F2 Logistics is set to finally make its debut in the league.

Indeed, as the season approaches much of the attention is on the Cargo Movers, who will play in the PVL for the first time after begging off in 2021 over injury concerns. F2 Logistics still has the veteran lineup that dominated the Philippine Superliga, anchored by national team stars Aby Maraño, Majoy Baron, and Kianna Dy.

For the Crossovers, their focus is on regaining the form that made them the top team in the 2021 Open Conference. It will take some work: they are unlikely to have Jaja Santiago in the fold for the tournament as she is still playing for the Saitama Ageo Medics in Japan’s V.League.

“Back to zero ulit kami,” Chery Tiggo skipper Maika Ortiz said on a KUMU livestream, Monday night, adding that they are not dwelling on their status as defending champions.

“Kailangan, from the bottom ulit kami,” she stressed. “Kailangan mag-pursue ulit kami, itaas ulit namin ang sarili namin.”

Jaja Santiago may be unavailable but the Crossovers will still have Dindin Santiago and Mylene Paat, who are coming off strong stints with Nakhon Ratchasima QminC in Thailand. They also got a proven scorer in EJ Laure, who will join Chery Tiggo for this campaign after missing out last year.

“Andito ulit sila Mylene at si Dindin, maganda ‘yung pinakita nila sa Thailand, so isang malaking factor sila para sa amin,” said Ortiz.

The Crossovers open their title defense on Wednesday night against the Cignal HD Spikers at the Paco Arena in Manila.

High expectations


Meanwhile, the Cargo Movers are hard at work amid high expectations from fans who have long wanted to see them play against PVL squads. 

F2 Logistics will not have high-scoring Filipino-American Kalei Mau for this campaign, but they added veteran Dzi Gervacio and former NCAA Most Valuable Player Shola Alvarez to their roster ahead of the conference.

Maraño, their longtime captain, is optimistic of their chances.

“Solid ‘yung team namin. Alam niyo naman ang lineup namin, core ng La Salle. Ever since, magkakasama kami talaga,” said Maraño. “Andito pala si Dzi, kasama namin si Dzi at saka si Shola. Meron kaming mga karagdagang malalakas na kababaihan dito sa team namin sa F2.”

“‘Yun ang abangan ninyo,” she added. “Talagang nakita niyo naman, sa tagal-tagal na panahon na magkakasama kami as F2, andiyan talaga lagi ‘yung pride pag naglalaro. Andoon ‘yung angas, andiyan ‘yung puso ‘pag naglalaro, at siyempre ‘yung heart of a champion na dinala namin sa matagal na panahon.”

The Cargo Movers open their account in the PVL on Wednesday afternoon, taking on Black Mamba Army at 3 p.m.

‘All good’ 


Still tipped to contend for the Open Conference title are the Creamline Cool Smashers, who just lost out to the Crossovers in an instant classic series last year.

While other teams added plenty of new faces, Creamline opted to retain its core, only signing Fille Cainglet-Cayetano while Michele Gumabao went on leave. The Cool Smashers will still bank on veterans Alyssa Valdez and Jia De Guzman, along with rising stars Tots Carlos and Jema Galanza.

Valdez is hopeful that their familiarity will work to Creamline’s advantage even as other PVL teams made roster changes.

“We will take that as an advantage in the coming PVL, the familiarity, our chemistry also. Hopefully ‘yun ang isa talaga sa madala namin pagpasok namin sa conference na ‘to,” said Valdez.

“I think we’re in a happy place right now, as a team,” she also said. “We’re just really grateful we had that opportunity to bond and train together as a team for five weeks. We’re all good, we’re all good.”

Most PVL teams embarked in bubble training camps ahead of the conference. The tournament will be compressed to four weeks, in order to give way to the national team’s training camp in Brazil in April.

For the first time, the PVL is implementing a pool format in its tournament. Defending champions Chery Tiggo headlines Pool A with F2, Choco Mucho, Army, and Cignal, while Pool B has Petro Gazz, PLDT, BaliPure, and Creamline.

The top four in Pool A will join the Pool B squads, with the top two teams having twice-to-beat incentives in the quarterfinals. 

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