By John Bryan Ulanday
Center Gym, Lipa, Batangas)
10 a.m. – Go For Gold-Air Force vs. Manileño Spikers
1:30 p.m. Sabong International Spikers vs. MRT-Negros
4 p.m. – Global Remit vs. Team Dasma Monarchs
LIPA CITY — After women’s teams last week, the finest men’s clubs in the country bannered by heavy favorites Go For Gold-Air Force Aguilas take their turns today when they slug it out for the inaugural crown of the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) Champions League at the Aquamarine Recreational Center Gym here.
Go For Gold-Air Force, made up of a slew of national team players, troops into battle at 10 a.m. against the Manileño Spikers for the curtain raiser of the triple-header opener also featuring Sabong International Spikers against MRT-Negros at 1:30 p.m. and Global Remit against Team Dasma Monarchs at 4 p.m.
Basilan Steel Spikers Amin-Anak Mindanao are also in the fray, making their debut against Go For Gold-Air Force tomorrow.
Go For Gold-Air Force, Basilan and Manileño compose Pool A while Global Remit, Sabong International, MRT-Negros and Dasma make up Pool B with the top two squads from each group advancing to the crossover semifinals.
All eyes are on the Aguilas led by national team skipper John Vic De Guzman, middle blockers Kim Malabunga and Francis Saura, setter Jessie Lopez and libero Ricky Marcos, who anchored the country’s historic silver medal finish in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
Ace spiker Bryan Bagunas, too, was supposed to be part of the stacked squad under the tutelage of mentor Dante Alinsunurin if not for his ongoing campaign in the Japan V.League.
Sans Mr. Bagunas, Mr. Alinsunurin’s unit is still poised for a title run coming off a solid campaign in the Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championships in Thailand last month.
But their counterparts are unfazed by the challenge with a vow to give the Aguilas a run for their own money.
“This might be our first tournament as a volleyball club but our players are experienced so expect tough and exciting games from us. We will give our best in each game,” said Steel Spikers team manager Dr. Arnel Hajan, who is also the PNVF vice-president.
The PNVF Champions League is backed by Rebisco, Pitmaster Foundation, Inc., Top Speed, 1Pacman Partylist, Philippine Sports Commission and Philippine Olympic Committee as platinum sponsors; F2 Logistics, Asics, PLDT, MVP Sports Foundation and Mikasa as gold sponsors; and BCDA, Philippine Red Cross, Lipa City, Davis Paint and Emerald PVC Pipes, Fittings and Doors as silver sponsors with PNVF godfather, Taguig Rep. Alan Peter S. Cayetano, chairman of the Champions League, giving his full support.