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CATCH UP: Recapping PVL teams’ player moves after wild 2023 offseason

JR Isaga

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CATCH UP: Recapping PVL teams’ player moves after wild 2023 offseason

NEW HOMES. (L-R, from top row) Majoy Baron, Kim Fajardo, Kianna Dy, Caitlin Viray, Aby Marano, Bea de Leon, Dawn Macandili-Catindig, Grethcel Soltones, and Ara Galang pose for photos during the 2024 PVL Media Day sessions

PVL Images/Rappler

Keep track here of all major player movements in the PVL, including the arrival of two new teams, ahead of a landmark 2024 season and a new All-Filipino Conference

MANILA, Philippines – Hard-hitting volleyball is back for the first time in 2024 as the new PVL All-Filipino Conference kicks off at the PhilSports Arena on Tuesday, February 20.

Mighty dynasty Creamline is once again set to defend its crown, this time against two new teams and many other familiar faces – albeit dressed in different colors after arguably the most frenzied and most high-profile free agency period in league history to cap off 2023.

As the taraflex courts are rolled out once again, take a look back at how PVL teams fared in the chaotic, year-ending scramble, and how they are expected to perform in this upcoming 2024 season.

The following are arranged by the final team records in the 2023 Second All-Filipino Conference:

Creamline Cool Smashers

Key additions: Bea de Leon, Denden Lazaro-Revilla, Dij Rodriguez
Key departures: Celine Domingo, Jia de Guzman (Japan V. League import)
Key holdovers: Alyssa Valdez, Tots Carlos, Jema Galanza, Kyle Negrito, Michele Gumabao

Dynasty, super team, empire. Whatever you want to call it, Creamline is again the team to beat in the new All-Filipino Conference.

Briefly bogged down by the departures of former MVPs Celine Domingo and Jia de Guzman, the Cool Smashers quickly rebounded by snagging sister team Choco Mucho’s leaders Bea de Leon and Denden Lazaro-Revilla, before scouring the sands to land beach volleyball standout Dij Rodriguez.

There’s not much else to be said. It is once again a championship-or-bust campaign for the almighty seven-time PVL champions.

Choco Mucho Flying Titans

Key additions: Royse Tubino, Mars Alba, Bia General, Mean Mendrez
Key departures: Caitlin Viray, Bea de Leon, Denden Lazaro-Revilla, Des Cheng (injured)
Key holdovers: Sisi Rondina, Kat Tolentino, Isa Molde, Cherry Nunag, Deanna Wong

After its first-ever finals and podium finish, Choco Mucho is determined to keep shaking off the “little sister” tag.

Despite losing vocal leaders Bea de Leon and Denden Lazaro-Revilla to their ates in Creamline, the Flying Titans quickly rebounded with a free agency signing quartet, bannered by veteran spiker Royse Tubino, and fearless young setter Mars Alba.

Choco Mucho is here to stay as a contender, and its arsenal is more than enough to go for gold this time around.

Cignal HD Spikers

Key additions: Dawn Macandili-Catindig, Jovelyn Fernandez
Key departures: Bia General, Gelai Nunag, Rachel Anne Daquis (on leave)
Key holdovers: Vanie Gandler, Ces Molina, Ria Meneses, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Gel Cayuna

Cignal has a proverbial glass ceiling to break, and it looks like it has found the perfect set of tools for the job.

Often settling for bronze-medal finishes in recent years, the HD Spikers are shoring up their already potent defenses with top libero Dawn Macandili-Catindig, a perfect complement to their array of offensive powerhouses like MVP Ces Molina, Jovelyn Gonzaga, and the fast-rising Vanie Gandler.

There will be no silver linings this time around. Only gold will do for this Cignal batch.

Chery Tiggo Crossovers

Key additions: Aby Maraño, Ara Galang, Jeanette Villareal
Key departures: None
Key holdovers: Eya Laure, Mylene Paat, Pauline Gaston, Cess Robles, Jen Nierva
, Jasmine Nabor

Fierce just got fiercer for former PVL champion Chery Tiggo.

Already led by former MVP Mylene Paat and super rookie Eya Laure, the Crossovers just got a double shot of veteran savvy in new captain Aby Maraño and her fellow former F2 partner-in-crime Ara Galang.

Chery Tiggo’s quest back on top continues, with a lot of skill, swag, and star power to boot.

PLDT High Speed Hitters

Key additions: Kianna Dy (injured), Majoy Baron, Kim Fajardo
Key departures: Mika Reyes (injured)
Key holdovers: Savannah Davison, Kath Arado, Dell Palomata, Erika Santos, Rhea Dimaculangan

Following F2’s disbandment, PLDT was aptly one of the first ones to ring players’ phones, and to its delight, the perfect trio of stars answered the calls.

Once she fully heals, super scorer Kianna Dy will serve as the perfect opposite hitter complement to top outsides Savannah Davison and Erika Santos, while Majoy Baron will nicely fill in the middle blocker spot left by injured captain Mika Reyes.

Setter Rhea Dimaculangan, meanwhile, will carry a lighter playmaking load as overqualified backup Kim Fajardo completes the former F2 troika for PLDT.

Like sister team Cignal, PLDT is never too far away from breaking through to the contenders’ upper rungs, and the same will still ring true this new conference.

Petro Gazz Angels

Key additions: Brooke Van Sickle, MJ Phillips (returning), Myla Pablo (returning), Mich Morente, Joy Dacoron, coach Koji Tsuzurabara
Key departures: Grethcel Soltones, Heather Guino-o
Key holdovers: Jonah Sabete, Djanel Cheng, Remy Palma, Nicole Tiamzon, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas

The 2023 Second All-Filipino Conference is shaping up to be mere pit stop for Petro Gazz.

After a subpar 6-5 record and sixth-place finish, the Angels have refueled with a plethora of new signings and returnees, most notably Fil-Am standout Brooke Van Sickle, former Korean V. League import MJ Phillips, two-time MVP Myla Pablo, and new Japanese head coach Koji Tsuzurabara.

As expected of a perennial contender, Petro Gazz is once again back to compete with the best and be the best.

Akari Chargers

Key additions: Grethcel Soltones, Celine Domingo, Max Juangco
Key departures: Justine Jazareno (on leave), Coach Jorge Souza de Brito
Key holdovers: Faith Nisperos, Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Fifi Sharma, Erika Raagas, Trisha Genesis

There seems to be no stopping Akari’s rise as the PVL’s new dark horse contender.

After a franchise-best seventh-place finish in the previous All-Filipino tilt, the Chargers have gone all in, signing former V-League MVP Grethcel Soltones and ex-Finals MVP Celine Domingo to bolster multiple facets in both offense and defense.

It will surely be crowded at the top, but Akari is hell-bent on crashing that party soon.

Nxled Chameleons

Key additions: Ivy Lacsina, Jaila Atienza
Key departures: Judith Abil, Janine Navarro
Key holdovers: Kamille Cal, Jho Maraguinot, Lycha Ebon, Rachel Jorvina, Krich Macaslang

Unlike its playoff-hunting sister team Akari, Nxled will more than likely keep its focus on developing its growing talent core this conference and beyond.

To their credit, the Chameleons are definitely on the right track after luring their own former F2 standout in young blocker Ivy Lacsina, who showed off as a potentially serviceable winger in her final conference as a Cargo Mover.

Nxled is by no means a title contender yet. That doesn’t mean it should be ignored by those that are.

Farm Fresh Foxies

Key additions: Caitlin Viray, Jolina dela Cruz (injured), Lorene Toring (injured), Elaine Kasilag
Key departures: College of St. Benilde players (Gayle Pascual, Jade Gentapa, Sophia Mondonedo, etc.)
Key holdovers: Trisha Tubu, Kate Santiago, Louie Romero, Pia Ildefonso, Alyssa Bertolano

Don’t let young Farm Fresh fool you, it is hungry for wins, and it will stand toe-to-toe with anyone in its way, contender or otherwise.

Arguably the most intriguing of the PVL’s new teams, the Foxies are gearing up for a massive leap in the standings with an outstanding off-season haul of breakout opposite hitter Caitlin Viray, veteran blocker Elaine Kasilag, and former collegiate standouts Jolina dela Cruz and Lorene Toring.

Brimming with youth and clear-cut potential, Farm Fresh will surely threaten the league’s established powers very, very soon.

Galeries Tower Highrisers

Key additions: Shola Alvarez, France Ronquillo, Alyssa Eroa
Key departures: None
Key holdovers: Dimdim Pacres, Rapril Aguilar, Roma Joy Doromal, Fhen Emnas, Carly Hernandez

The horizon remains foggy for upstart Galeries Tower after its debut conference, but the skies will always clear up for those who weather the storms.

Currently a hodgepodge of veterans and prospects, the Highrisers made earnest attempts in the free agent bidding wars and landed more role players like Alyssa Eroa and former F2 hitter Shola Alvarez.

Galeries has shown an on-court fire better than its 1-10 debut record shows. Time will tell if it can find its winning blueprint in this intensely competitive league.

Capital1 Solar Spikers

Key additions: Coach Roger Gorayeb, Ja Lana, Jel Quizon, Heather Guino-o, Jorelle Singh, Bingle Landicho, Janine Navarro, Aiko Urdas

One of the two debuting teams this All-Filipino Conference, Capital1 has immediately shown a serious desire to compete with the PVL’s best.

After tapping legendary coach Roger Gorayeb to command its kickoff campaign, the Solar Spikers put together an intriguing mix of role players-turned-top options like Heather Guino-o and Jorelle Singh, and young collegiate standouts like Ja Lana and Jel Quizon.

Capital1 will surely capitalize on its new spot in the PVL, and entertaining games may very well be in store for the debutant squad.

Strong Group Athletics

Key additions: Lilet Mabbayad, Jana Sta. Maria, Vira May Guillema, Dolly Verzosa, Sarah Verutiao

Undisputedly the bigger mystery of the two new PVL teams, renowned basketball big-spender Strong Group Athletics is not banking on major name recall in its first foray into volleyball.

Straight-up called a bunch of “no-names” by assistant team manager Kiara Cruz, Strong Group’s possible top options hail from the NCAA and a variety of lower-level leagues like Manny Pacquiao’s fledgling Maharlika Pilipinas Volleyball Association.

Hey, who knows? Maybe the “no-names” can introduce themselves under the brighter lights of the PVL with some huge upsets. No one is unbeatable in sports. –

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GAME SCHEDULE: 2024 PVL All-Filipino Conference

GAME SCHEDULE: 2024 PVL All-Filipino Conference

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