The cheering match between supporters of Pocari (above) and BaliPure (below) was as intense and smoldering as the riveting action happening on the court Thursday night in Game 3 of the championship series at Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan City. (Photos by Eileen Araza)
There’s no doubting that the just-concluded Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference finals between eventual winner Pocari Sweat and BaliPure would go down in Sports Vision’s history as one of the most hotly contested in any of its organized tournaments.
Out of the absorbing best-of-three title series has emerged what clearly shaped up as a growing rivalry between the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors and the BaliPure Water Defenders fanned by the staggering support each got from its loyal fans and followers, most of whom had travelled in hordes from the province of Cavite and Pampanga.
Mirasol Abunda, Lady Warrior setter Gyzelle Sy’s grandma, not only showed up with Sy’s mom, her daughter, and a few relatives; she transported to Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City about 50 of her barangay folk in Noveleta, Cavite, in mini buses, L 300s, and six motorcycles, each dressed in the Pocari blue.
They were joined in by parents and cousins of the other Lady Warriors, who each drew in their own fans and followers.
The white-shirted BaliPure group was mostly made up of employees of the Balibago City Water District, maker and distributor of the bottled purified water BaliPure. Present every playing day since the two-round eliminations, they were trucked in from Balibago City and the neighboring towns of San Luis and San Simon in Pampanga to cheer for the team they have developed a close affinity with in so short a time.
Among the BaliPure supporters was Water Defender Jerrili Malaban’s mom, who flew in from Los Angeles without her daughter’s knowledge to be with her husband and three other daughters for Thursday’s deciding match.
Deafening cheers, heightened by the slapping of blue and white clappers and drumbeats, went up in the arena each time a side scored a point and a collective whoosh of air was expended every time a team fumbled or lost an opportunity all throughout the heart-stopping Game 3 of the well-attended title series.
American Krystal Rivers, Pocari’s eleventh-hour replacement for its injured Bosnian import Edina Selimovic, made all the difference for the Lady Warriors, who, under coach Rommel Abella, reigned supreme in all three Sports Vision-organized tournaments they took part in.
Rivers was a class above everyone else’s as she attacked with impunity, her well-aimed spikes clearing the blockers’ outstretched hands more often than not and landing like guided missiles. She went after seemingly irretrievable balls in a solid display of floor coverage as well as put up an impregnable wall of defense at the net.
In short, Rivers was from a different planet.
Start of a new rivalry
This much appeared certain.
The roiling rivalry the Lady Warriors and the Water Defenders began in the inaugural staging of the Premier Volleyball League, a joint undertaking of Sports Vision as organizer, Asics as official league partner and Mikasa as official game ball, will further see the and sizzle in the years to come until it reaches legendary proportions.
As much as the PVL, given the track record of its organizer in transforming the former V League into a huge blockbuster women’s volleyball tourney, is here to stay, so do Pocari Sweat and BaliPure. Apparently.
Hear this: A jubilant Atty. Eric Ty, Pocari team manager until the just-concluded PVL finals, was heard exiting the main entrance of Filoil arena announcing to all and sundry that Pocari will field two teams in the 2018 season.
Pressed for details, all the legal counsel of Otsuka-Solar Philippines Inc., maker of Pocari Sweat, could say was that Ronald Cheng, his boss and owner of Pocari Sweat, has committed to have two teams in the PVL next year.
And Virgilio ‘Gil’ Cortez, the Water Defenders team consultant, said in an earlier interview that with the resources available to him as the current regional director and a member of the board of trustees of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Inc, BaliPure will tie up with organizers of the Universities and Colleges of Luzon Athletic Association regarding staging a Region III-wide volleyball competition among UCLAA member schools.
BaliPure, explained Cortez, will select raw and promising talents from this regional tournament to form a farm team upon which it hopes to draw future members of the Purest Water Defenders.
Cortez is optimistic, as well that BaliPure, with its deep bench of local players, will snag the title of the upcoming PVL Open Conference.
But over Otsuka-Solar president and managing director Shinichi Suzuki’s dead body. “Of course, we will also win the next PVL Open Conference.”
Where else would you see the head of a multinational firm pushing the drinks cart and personally serving water or Pocari Sweat to his team?
Only in the PVL.
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