Defining the 2010s: Influx of Imports

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.

In the 2000s, the then Shakey’s V-League (SVL) started bringing in foreign players in the country to reinforce collegiate teams. Most of them hailed from Southeast Asian giant Thailand, and among the pioneer batch of imports are Jaroensri Bualee, the eventual most decorated foreign player of the league, and Lithawat Kesinee.

Their presence spiced up the action between the country’s top collegiate squads in UAAP’s Far Eastern University, University of Sto. Tomas, De La Salle University and NCAA powerhouse San Sebastian College.

But it wasn’t until the 2010s when the influx of imports happened.

Brought by the emergence of corporate leagues, particularly the SVL which will later be renamed as Premier Volleyball League (PVL) and the Philippine SuperLiga (PSL), the number of foreign players taking their talents here also rose.

Every season, PVL and PSL each hold an import-flavored conference — the Reinforced Conference for the former and the Grand Prix for the latter. These conferences opened more doors for foreign talents.

In fact, a total of 24 imports were tapped during the 2018 iteration of the Grand Prix, where teams were allowed to reinforce themselves with three imports. Leading that haul of foreigners were Lindsay Stalzer, MJ Perez, Sara Klisura and Gyselle Silva.

Stalzer, the 6-foot-1 stunner from USA, burst into the local scene in 2014 to power Cignal. A resident PSL import, she has since played here for five more seasons for a total of six.

Throughout her tenure, Stalzer has won three championships and two MVP plums. She is, up to this day, is considered the queen of PSL imports.

Perez and Klisura, meanwhile, have left mark of their own.

An ex-Olympian, Perez led F2 Logistics to its first ever Grand Prix championship en route to winning the MVP plum in 2017. That same year, Klisura scored 41 big points in a single game — breaking the most points scored in a single game in PSL at the time.

In 2018, Silva, the scoring machine from Cuba, arguably chalked the decade’s most defining import moment as she erupted for 56 points — breaking all-time Philippines’ record for most points scored in a single match and tallying the fourth best scoring record by a player in the whole world.

There are so many notable imports aside from the abovementioned. There’s Stephanie Niemer, who led the country during its campaign in the 2016 FIVB Women’s Club World Championship held here. There’s Wilma Salas, arguably the most lethal PVL import to date. And who could forget Bualee, who played her last stint here in 2017.

The list goes on.

While the original purpose of acquiring imports is to power the team, this also helped local players in boosting their level of play. These imports challenged the Filipino players and coaches — by, among other things, bringing in their top-caliber skill sets against the locals while the latter try to absorb every bit of learning they could from these experienced hitters.

The arrival of imports was also instrumental in identifying where Philippine volleyball stands in the international arena — which, it turned out, was still behind SEA heavyweights Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Quite notably, Philippines has exported five local talents as well in the 2010s.

In 2017, Alyssa Valdez played for Thailand’s 3BB Nakornnont and Chinese Taipei’s Attack Line. A year later, Jaja Santiago, Dindin Santiago-Manabat, and Marck Espejo were tapped by three Japanese clubs namely Ageo Medics, Toray Arrows and Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler.

Just last year, another Pinoy hitter in Bryan Bagunas suited up for Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler while Espejo signed for Thailand’s Visakha Volleyball Club.

With the achievements in the past decade, it is only fitting to say that, in 2020s, Philippines is billed for more top-notch actions whether from resident or new foreign players.