As PVL opens first pro tournament, Chery Tiggo seizes moment to grab limelight

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Jaja Santiago (No. 3) admits she’s still trying to regain her top form but did enough on Saturday to help Chery Tiggo to victory. —PHOTO COURTESY OF SPORTS VISION

The Premier Volleyball League (PVL) served up the country’s first professional volleyball tournament in history on Saturday.

And Chery Tiggo helped make it a smashing one.

The Crossovers whipped the PLDT Power Hitters, 25-20, 25-17, 25-6, to kick off the league’s bubble season at PCV Socio-Civic Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte province.

“As a team with little time to prepare, we really tried to get our game back and establish our connection,” Crossovers star Jaja Santiago said.

Chery Tiggo overwhelmed PLDT on both offense and defense as typified by middle blocker Mary Joy Dacoron, whose team-best 13 points included six from blocks. Dindin Santiago-Manabat had 12 points and was visibly elated over playing with her sister Jaja again.

“I always look for my sister on the court and now she’s here, I’m happy,” said Dindin, who has been teammates with her sister since college before going their separate ways while playing for different clubs in Japan.

Jaja, still trying to recapture her playing form, finished with 11 points.

“When I came back from Japan, the pandemic [still forced lockdowns]. I wasn’t able to play at all so it’s really an adjustment and I have to do my best to bring back my game for Chery,” said Jaja.

Despite that, PLDT had little resistance to Chery Tiggo’s net forays, failing to register a single block.

As a result, the Crossovers peppered their foes by drilling 38 out of 94 spikes while holding the Power Hitters to a measly 26-of-107 count.

University of the Philippines star Isa Molde led PLDT with eight points whie Ellie Soyud had seven.

From a 10-5 count in the third set, the Crossovers ran off 13 straight points, leaving their foes gasping.

The Power Hitters could not assemble any offense of their own until Kath Villegas scored on a quick play.

But even that failed to hose down Chery Tiggo’s assault, with Dacoron providing the deciders.

As part of the protocols in the bio-secure environment, no fans were allowed inside the venue and player movement was strictly limited.

“It’s different because at least in Japan, there was an opportunity to unwind if you are anxious or frustrated,” Jaja said. “Here, you’re on your own. Plus, there are no fans, too, to cheer for you so it’s really a sacrifice.”

The organizing Sports Vision actually set a three-match offering in the inaugurals, but the Perlas-Cignal HD game was postponed early in the day for precautionary measures.

This after Ilocos Norte Gov. Matthew Manotoc had requested players of both teams to undergo another reverse transcription-polymerase chain reation testing.

“This is just a precautionary measure set by the Ilocos Norte LGU (local government unit),” said league commissioner Tony Boy Liao. “We will thus be postponing the Perlas-Cignal game to a later date.”

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