Editor’s Note: As the decade draws to a close, FOX Sports Philippines relive the moments that defined volleyball in the country.
From classic rivalries to player highlights, volleyball in the 2010s is definitely one for the books — a chapter in the sports that will be remembered in the next decade and, most probably, the decade after that.
This article is part of FOX Sports PH’s Defining the 2010s series.
The 2010s saw the emergence of two prestigious — and rival — leagues that helped in Philippine volleyball’s growth: the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) and the Philippine SuperLiga (PSL).
PVL, formerly the Shakey’s V-League (SVL) prior to its renaming in 2017, was the first to welcome the participation of corporate clubs in 2011. Exclusively for collegiate teams in its first seven seasons, the then SVL opened its doors to clubs in its eighth season.
The SVL 8th Season Open Conference featured four clubs competing against three other collegiate teams. These clubs were Maynilad Water Dragons, Philippine Air Force Lady Jet Spikers, Philippine Navy Lady Sailors and eventual champions Philippine Army Lady Troopers.
One of the — if not the — most memorable conference SVL ever held was the 10th Season Open Conference in 2013, where the Cagayan Valley Lady Red Rising Suns and Smart-Maynilad Net Spikers slugged it out in the gold medal series.
The Lady Rising Suns, led by Thai imports Kanikka Thipachot and Phomla Soraya with Aiza Maizo, Angge Tabaquero, and Pau Soriano, eventually emerged as champions that conference, outlasting the Net Spikers squad composed of Alyssa Valdez, Dindin Santiago, Wanida Kotruang and Lithawat Kesinee in two nail-biting five-setter encounters.
Today, PVL is home to the Valdez-skippered Creamline, PetroGazz, Motolite and Choco Mucho.
In 2013, two years later after SVL’s launch, PSL was established — deemed as the first professional corporate club volleyball league in the country.
Unlike its rival league, PSL was previously all-corporate clubs only until 2018 when it launched its first official collegiate conference.
Among its early years, PSL was dominated by SVL heavyweight Philippine Army composed nonetheless by veterans Tina Salak, Mary Jean Balse and Nene Bautista. But 2015 marked the surge of a new breed of champions in Petron and F2 Logistics.
The Blaze Spikers and the Cargo Movers are arguably the top two best teams in the league for the past few years. In fact, the two PSL elites have built a shared dynasty since 2017, when their record seven-conference Finals meeting started.
Both stacked with former collegiate stars and national team players, Petron and F2 Logistics have lorded in the league, with the former amassing nine PSL titles as the latter collected five.
Notably, there was also the Spikers’ Turf, inaugurated in 2014 and founded in 2015.
While not as popular as PVL and PSL, the Spikers’ Turf houses and has housed the country’s best male volleyball players in Bryan Bagunas, Marck Espejo, Peter Torres, Ranran Abdilla, Jessie Lopez and Mark Alfafara to name a few.
Just last year, Spikers’ Turf hosted 24 teams during its Open Conference — seven teams more than PVL and PSL teams combined.
Throughout the previous decade, these three leagues were the stage where players from different age brackets, universities and regions continue to play even after college — enabling them to turn their passion into careers.
Compared to the 2000s, even more to the 1990s, volleyball-related career opportunities for players post-graduation in college were fewer, if not limited. But since the birth of these leagues, the country has seen tremendous growth in numbers of players having full-time professional careers in sports. Some of the country’s stalwarts are even reportedly earning six-digit salaries — a reality not even imaginable before the 2010s.
PVL, PSL and Spikers’ Turf also paved the way for non-UAAP nor non-NCAA players to showcase their talent on a national level. Among these so-called provincial players, or players who did not hail from Manila-based universities, who gained recognition after joining these tourneys are Jovelyn Gonzaga, Fiola Ceballos, Dell Palomata and Abdilla.
Largely contributing to the success of these leagues were the overwhelming effect of the media and social media.
As games were now televised on a regular basis, accessible either online or offline, the number of fans also expands. Social media, of course, further boosts the rise in popularity of the sports — and the demand that comes with it.
Imagine the Philippines without these leagues.
It will obviously benefit the national team, which was deemed to be at the receiving end of the negative effects of having two leagues that run all year long in the country. Without these three, there will be more time for training, more time to focus on cohesion, and more time to prepare for international games.
USA has reportedly issued 430 international transfer certificates (ITC) for the 2020 season. This did not come as a shock as the Americans do not have a professional league; thus, they visit and play overseas instead. Despite this, the USA is currently sitting at no. 3 in the senior world rankings.
But the Philippines is no USA. The country is miles behind the latter in terms of skills, and so it is quite logical to say that few, if not limited, volleyball-related career opportunities will be available for the Filipino players.
The emergence of PVL, PSL and Spikers’ Turf have, yes, its pros and cons. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that without these three, Philippine volleyball might still be what it was prior to the 2010s — with volleyball-related career opportunities, yes, but few, if not limited.
(Images from Facebook/F2 Logistics and Sports Vision)