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Petro Gazz favored as PVL AFC unwraps

Fil-Am hitter Brooke Van Sickle will be at the helm when Petro Gazz opens its campaign in the PVL All-Filipino Conference. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PETRO GAZZ

Games today:

(Philsports Arena)

4 p.m. — Petro Gazz vs Strong Group

6 p.m. — Chery Tiggo vs Capital1


The vaunted firepower and airtight defense of Petro Gazz will be put into test when it battles new team Strong Group in the opening salvo of the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference today at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

Action is set at 4 p.m. with the Angels looking to come up with an ultimate show of force after ruling the Philippine National Volleyball Federation Champions League recently.

In the first game at 6 p.m., another powerhouse team in Chery Tiggo will test the mettle of a young, but dangerous, Capital1 squad.

Strong Group and Capital1 are the league’s newest squads. Strong took over the Gerflor franchise while the Solar Spikers filled the spot vacated by F2 Logistics.

But all eyes will be on Petro Gazz, a
two-time Reinforced Conference champion.

Myla Pablo and MJ Phillips’ return, along with the addition of Filipino-American hitter Brooke Van Sickle, fortifies the Angels’ roster, making them formidable contenders against the Strong Group Athletics, led by skipper Dolly Verzosa and veteran setter Vira Gillema.

“For me, I just want to be as consistent as possible. I think that will hopefully be my role. I want to be there for my teammates,” said Van Sickle, who joined the team last month.

“They have my back; I want to be able to have their backs and the chemistry that we’re already building, and the relationships that we’re building.”

Chery Tiggo, the 2021 Open Conference champion, has also bolstered its lineup with key acquisitions, including former F2 Logistics stalwarts Ara Galang and Aby Maraño, who with mainstays Mylene Paat, Shaya Adorador, Cess Robles and sisters EJ and Eya Laure are expected to impose their power and class against the Solar Spikers.

But the Solar Spikers are determined under multi-titled coach Roger Gorayeb. The team, owned by sisters Mandy and Milka Romero, features a blend of experienced players and rising starts ready for the challenge.

“I do not promise anything big right away. We’ll do it slowly. I don’t want to speak too soon. They took me in based on my experience and my track record,” Capital1 mentor Roger Gorayeb said.

Team captain Jorelle Singh, Des Clemente, Heather Guino-o, Jannine Navarro, Arianne Layug and Janeca Lana will spearhead Capital1’s bid with support to come from Rovee Instrella, Renesa Melgar, Kath Villegas, Shyra Umandal, Lourdes Clemente and Sydney Niegos.

“This will be a good opportunity for them to shine and be recognized, so we are giving our all-out support to the team,” Mandy Romero said.

The Romeros are aware of the challenging task ahead but they are ready to go through the process.

“We are not in a hurry, we take it one step at a time until we build a winning culture. That’s our goal,” Milka Romero said.

The tournament format involves a single round robin among 12 teams with the top four advancing to the semis, another round-robin phase.

The top two teams dispute the championship in a best-of-three series.

Meanwhile, PLDT and Galeries Tower clash at 3 p.m. while Choco Mucho tangles with Nxled at 5 p.m. in the second playdate on Thursday at the Filoil EcoOil Arena in Pasig.

Creamline, winner of last year’s two AFC titles, launches its drive for an eighth league championship against Farm Fresh at 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in the first triple-bill that also features the Chery Tiggo-Strong Group clash at 2 p.m., and the Cignal-Akari duel at 4 p.m.

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