MANILA, Philippines – Chery Tiggo will face a tough climb back up to contention in the upcoming 2022 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference as they will miss the services of reigning league MVP Jaja Santiago, who is still in Japan playing for Saitama.
Although this is, without a doubt, a significant loss to the team’s firepower, the Crossovers will still be bannered by Jaja’s sister Dindin Santiago-Manabat, and Mylene Paat, both of whom are coming off a stint with Nakhon Ratchasima in Thailand.
Manabat showed real star power in last year’s title run. Although her sister eventually copped Finals MVP honors, Manabat still shone with a 32-point eruption in the title-clinching finals Game 3 to dethrone the Creamline Cool Smashers.
Meanwhile, Paat took a great leap in her Thailand stint, as she was named the Volleyball Thailand League Best Scorer after leading Nakhon to a bronze-medal finish.
“We are very happy and proud of their achievements,” said Chery Tiggo team manager Ronwald Dimaculangan.
“We saw significant improvements in [Paat’s] skills, particularly her service. She is also faster in her attacks and has improved her defense.”
Aside from retaining their top two stars, the Crossovers also anticipated Santiago’s unavailability, joined the off-season’s signing frenzy, and snagged up Julia Angeles, Cza Carandang, Roma Joy Doromal, Necelle Gual, and May Luna.
EJ Laure also opted out of her last two years of eligibility in the UAAP, and turned pro with Chery Tiggo. Her sister Eya, meanwhile, will stay with UST. Notably, both sisters committed to the Crossovers before their shift to the pro ranks.
With missing key cogs in both offense and defense, Chery Tiggo will be forced to fill these holes by committee starting Wednesday, March 16, as it tries to maintain its contender status in the upcoming conference.
“Our goal, of course, is to defend the title,” said Dimaculangan. “But we won’t put too much pressure on the players. Just like last season, we will be taking it one game at a time.”
Chery Tiggo joins the Choco Mucho Flying Titans, the Black Mamba-Army Lady Troopers, the Cignal HD Spikers, and their Philippine Super Liga (PSL) rival F2 Logistics Cargo Movers in Pool A of the compressed conference.
Pool B will feature Creamline, the Petro Gazz Angels, the PLDT High Speed Hitters, and the BaliPure Water Defenders. Cross-pool action will only begin in the playoffs starting March 27. – Rappler.com