Unity at last?

As rival leagues talk about ending discord, LVPI keeps fingers crossed for sake of national program

By: Marc Anthony Reyes - Philippine Daily Inquirer - Inquirer.net | April 23,2020 - 09:14 AM

The only thing bigger than the success women’s volleyball has had in the past few years commercially is the discord between two major forces of the sport: The progressive Philippine Superliga (PSL) and the pioneering Premier Volleyball League (PVL).

But what started out as an idea for both leagues to hold some sort of a battle of champions tournament has snowballed into the possibility of having, at the very least, a unified calendar that will allow the country’s volleyball program to grow internationally.

And the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas Inc. (LVPI) is hoping that both leagues’ plans to discuss unity gains momentum.

“It’s been on the table for quite sometime. I hope it pushes through because it’s big help for Philippine volleyball,” said LVPI executive vice president Peter Cayco on Wednesday.

One calendar

“We would have one calendar that would make all the club players available for the national team,” Cayco added.

PVL top honcho Ricky Palou admitted talking to his PSL counterparts and expressed optimism that unity will eventually happen—but talks, he said, will have to wait due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic that has locked down Luzon.

PSL president Ian Laurel said they “shared the common goal” with the PVL, which is to unify volleyball.

A unified league would be a dream for volleyball fans, who could see the biggest stars finally clash in the same court. It would mean a chance to renew the rivalry between superstars Alyssa Valdez of the PVL and Mika Reyes of the PSL. Valdez, the former Ateneo standout and Reyes, the ex-La Salle hotshot, were part of the renaissance of women’s volleyball when their rival schools figured in dramatic UAAP title clashes.

A unified calendar shared by two leagues would benefit the national program, which has been beset by clashing schedules, something that came to fore in the Southeast Asian Games last year, when the women’s squad fell out of the podium while the men’s team finished with a silver. The men’s team never had the same scheduling problems as the women’s squad.

Schedule conflict

“[We] come from different leagues,” Maddie Madayag told the Inquirer in the aftermath of the SEA Games finish. “Most of the time, our game days and training days clash.”

“I think that’s what everybody [needs] to look at if we want Philippine women’s volleyball to grow even more. That’s what we really have to work on.”

“The veterans of the [national] team, we only have one wish,” national team captain Aby Maraño said. “That we all unite because we want a better finish for [our team].”

Both leagues’ schedules overlap a lot that Jovelyn Gonzaga, who plays in both the PVL and the PSL, once had to play for each of her clubs in the same day.

Cayco feels there’s a lot of “issues to be settled,” least of all the fact that both leagues have separate television backers. So maybe a unified calendar will take precedence over a unified league.

What matters most, though, is that both leagues find some sort of middle ground to work on.

As Valdez told the Inquirer after the SEA Games: “We can reach the point where we can get medals but we not only need to change, we need to change now.”

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