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Bulldogs wary of SSL opposition

‘Actually, we’re not focusing on the absence of some teams.’

Participating teams in the Shakey’s Super League strike a pose during the official launch Thursday of the event that gets off the wraps Saturday. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF SSL

Powerhouse National University braces for a tough campaign against a hungry field aching to knock the Shakey’s Super League Collegiate Pre-Season Championship crown off its head when action kicks off Saturday at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan.

The Lady Bulldogs, who swept their way to conquering the inaugural season last year, lead the balanced field composed of five other squads from the University Athletic Association of the Philippines and 10 from the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Last year’s runner-up De La Salle University, champion of the SSL National Invitationals, and University of the Philippines, skipped the competition but promised to make their return in future tournaments.

But returning Lady Bulldogs head coach Norman Miguel remains wary of the opposition.

“Actually, we’re not focusing on the absence of some teams. We just want to continue with our training and let’s just see where we’ll be from there,” Miguel said.

Reigning Most Valuable Player Alyssa Solomon and former UAAP Rookie-MVP Bella Belen are expected to spearhead NU, whose roster is composed of members of the national team that participated in the Southeast Asia V-League and Asian Women’s Senior Championship.

The Lady Bulldogs, who won the title last year under former mentor Karl Dimaculangan, are bunched in Pool A with the San Sebastian College-Recoletos, Jose Rizal University and the souped-up University of the East bannered by super rookie Casiey Dongallo, who won the MVP plum in the Shakey’s Girls Volleyball Invitational League national high school tournament this summer.

NU opens its title-retention bid against UE on 23 September.

In Pool B are SSL National Invitationals runner-up Adamson University, Arellano University, Lyceum of the Philippines University and San Beda University while Pool C has reigning NCAA champion College of Saint Benilde, University of Santo Tomas, Letran and University of Perpetual Help System Dalta.

Completing the cast are Ateneo, under new coach Sergio Veloso, Far Eastern U, Mapua and Emilio Aguinaldo College in Pool D.

“It’s Year 2 for us in the SSL but we have been here for 13 straight years from 2005 to 2018, seeing the rise of women’s volleyball particularly in the collegiate and grassroots scene. It has been an honor to be back in volleyball,” said Shakey’s Pizza Asia Ventures Inc. president and CEO Vic Gregorio, joined by general manager Jorge Concepcion.

“It’s only Year 2 in our return to volleyball but we’re looking forward to more. That’s our mission. It’s almost a dream come true. There is no doubt seeing the NCAA teams vs UAAP teams altogether in one tournament is a sight to behold. We’re excited,” he added in the event also attended by Philippine Sports Commission commissioner Fritz Gaston.

Like in Season 1, the SSL will implement an all-to-play system for a bigger vision of giving maximum exposure to all players — for the benefit of their individual and overall team development with more playing time.

“It’s an exciting time for us. Once again, we will use the all-to-play system to give chance for all the players to play during the games. This SSL second season is a testament to the support given by the fans, schools and Shakey’s that represents fun, family and pizza. Shakey’s really equates with volleyball,” said Athletic Events and Sports Management Inc. president Dr. Ian Laurel.

All 16 teams will slug it out in a single-round robin format within their respective pools with the top two teams advancing in the knockout quarterfinals.

The semifinals will also be in a knockout format while the finals and the bronze medal match will be played in a best-of-three series.

Opening day will feature a triple-header with Perpetual taking on UST, Adamson clashing with Lyceum and San Beda battling Arellano after the opening ceremonies at 10 a.m.

The refurbished Rizal Memorial Coliseum, which served as the venue last year, will also host games including the finals.

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