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SPAVI is one of the leading restaurant chains and food service groups that owns and operates the country’s top casual dining pizza chain — Shakey’s.

All it took was just one phone call to a company synonymous with its undying love and support to volleyball for the conception and launch of the newest league aimed at developing the sport at the collegiate level.

Athletic Events and Sports Management Inc. president Ian Laurel was the one who gave Shakey’s Pizza Asia Ventures Inc. president and chief executive officer, Vicente Gregorio, a call about creating a brand-new league that will serve as an avenue for school-based women’s volleyball teams to compete.

SPAVI is one of the leading restaurant chains and food service groups that owns and operates the country’s top casual dining pizza chain — Shakey’s.

While it was Laurel who made the call, the concept of staging a pre-season and national invitationals was the brainchild of ACES chairman Philip Ella Juico — a distinguished sport leader and former chief of the Philippine Sports Commission.

Then, the ACES board members displayed their teamwork by holding a free-flowing discussion to conceptualize a league that aims to bring out the best from collegiate players with the support of a company that has been consistently supporting the sport.

From there, the Shakey’s Super League was born.

“Doc Ian Laurel called me up and asked: ‘Vic, would Shakey’s like to support women’s collegiate volleyball again?’ I said, ‘Game!’ and this is the result today,” Gregorio said, recalling the chain of events that prompted them to rekindle their love affair with volleyball.

“This officially reaffirms the commitment of Shakey’s and the entire SPAVI group to support women’s volleyball. There’s no doubt about that.”

In its initial offering, the SSL launched the Collegiate Preseason Championship last September featuring the finest college teams in Metro Manila.

The SSL pulled off a record number of participants where all 10 National Collegiate Athletic Association teams and all eight of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines squads joined — a first in Philippine volleyball history.

Held at the historic Rizal Memorial Coliseum, all 18 teams got the opportunity to test their mettle against familiar rivals and squads outside their mother league. Using a unique all-to-play format of play, all players from starters to second stringers to bench players were given much-needed exposure and experience as part of their preparations for the NCAA and UAAP.

The league also adhered to international volleyball standards with the introduction of the challenge system that was used starting the quarterfinals.

Reigning UAAP titlist National University emerged as champions after sweeping all their eight outings in the tournament with playdates held every weekend.

The Lady Bulldogs swept rival De La Salle University in front of a mammoth crowd — proof that the fans’ love for collegiate volleyball never diminished even after a two-year stoppage due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

MEMBERS of the NU Lady Bulldogs celebrate after winning the inaugural Shakey’s Collegiate Preseason Championship. | Photograph by Rio deluvio for the daily tribune @tribunephl_rio

Laurel expressed gratitude for the all-out support given by Shakey’s.

“Our biggest supporter is Shakey’s, a brand, a company that has been synonymous with volleyball because they are the ones who actually started and gave popularity to the sport close to 20 years ago,” he said.

“It’s very encouraging to have them choose a sport and support it all the way. They chose volleyball because it is synonymous with the values of Shakey’s: Fun, Family, Pizza. The whole family enjoys watching the games and supporting their favorite teams and players.”

Shakey’s is no stranger to supporting and promoting local volleyball.

“In 2004, we sponsored women’s collegiate volleyball. For 13 years, I’d like to think that Shakey’s helped develop women’s volleyball (in the Philippines) to what it is today,” Gregorio said.

Extending support

Not only did teams gain valuable experience and exposure, SSL, through Shakey’s initiative, also awarded a total of P8.2 million in cash donations for all the participating schools’ volleyball programs.

More than P6 million were initially raised until the end of the SSL tournament.

“During the final week of our promo, the total amount increased and this includes the P1.58 million raised when guests let Shakey’s choose which school will get the donation,” Shakey’s general manager Jorge Concepcion said.

“We decided to equally divide the amount to all participating schools so that’s about P87,000 additional donation for each team.”

Adamson University got the lion’s share of P946,600 donation followed by University of the Philippines (P719,200), Ateneo de Manila University (P685,200), Jose Rizal University (P642,600), Arellano University (P615,600), Far Eastern University (PP611,600), De La Salle University (P575,000) and NU (P516,500). Lyceum of the Philippines University got P400,000, Mapua University was awarded with P328,300 while University of Santo Tomas (P324,000), Emilio Aguinaldo College (P309,900), University of Perpetual Help System Dalta (P294,200), San Beda University (P273,500), University of the East (P267,200), San Sebastian College (P252,800), College of St. Benilde (P247,900) and Letran (P205,200) also received cash donations.

Juico was elated not only for the success of SSL’s initial offering but for the partnership with Shakey’s as they aim to realize their vision of furthering the development of women’s volleyball in the country.

“This team effort has resulted in a resounding success and marks not the end of a season but the beginning of a real, well thought out and strategic grassroots volleyball stakeholder-initiated program,” he said.

“We call, therefore, on all sectors to be part of this team because it is the right thing to do. It’s pure work for the country. It’s part of doing good. In fact, doing good in an organized and professional manner for volleyball and its stakeholders is concretized by the check donations of Shakey’s to all 18 colleges and universities.”

More to come

The resounding success of the SSL’s inaugural tournament, has inspired the group to stage bigger and better tournaments including the second conference set for July 2023.

“It’s a success, and we will continue it. We will institutionalize it, and, in the succeeding months, we are planning other tournaments which will further emphasize our involvement with the schools, colleges, and women’s volleyball,” Juico said.

The second conference, dubbed as SSL National Invitationals in July 2023, will feature six regional teams from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and six National Capital Region-based squads from the NCAA and the UAAP.

The top three teams after UAAP Season 85 and NCAA Season 98 will represent NCR and join the pair of qualifiers each from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

These endeavors, according to Juico, are part of the vision of the ACES and SPAVI’s partnership to help develop the level of women’s volleyball in the country.

“This is the concept that we and Mr. Vic Gregorio have been talking about — the grassroots development of volleyball. We have it here starting at the school level from the primary, secondary to tertiary,” Juico said.

“This is just the beginning. The best is yet to come.”

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