BALIPURE Purest Water Defenders may no longer be as star-studded as when they captured the 2017 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference against Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors.
Back then, the Balibago Waterworks System, Inc.-owned team had Gretchel Soltones, Jasmine Nabor, Macy Mendiola, Abigail Noval, Maria Angelica Cayuna and Aiko Sweet Uras when it defeated Pocari Sweat, 3-0, 3-1, in the final.
But don’t tell that to Balipure team manager Gil Cortez, coach Rommel Abella and lead stars Satti Espiritu and Gyra Ezra Barroga.
“It is every team’s dream to build a strong and competitive line-up, especially now that the old PSL members are with the PVL now. But I’m happy with the players we have right now,” said Cortez during the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sport (TOPS) via Zoom.
“With the recruitment we did under coach Abella, I think may ibubuga naman yung mga players namin. We’ll do it with our defense. And if we do that we have a chance,” added Cortez during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
Abella said the main target is to make it to the semifinals and see what will happen from there.
“We’ll take it one game at a time. The plan is to build and work on it. If we need a couple of players more, then we’ll look for what we need. What we are doing is working on our strengths and weaknesses and eventually to see what positions players we need. If we need to change,” said Abella, who is hoping to fill the big shoes left in the team by veteran coach Roger Gorayeb (now with PLDT).
A multi-titled coach with Pocari in the old Shakey’s V-League, Abella said the present BaliPure line-up built around Barroga, Espiritu, Carlota Hernandez, Roselle Baliton, Patty Orendain, Shirley Salamagos, Laizah Bendong, Audrey Paran, Alina Bicar and the comebacking Grazielle Bombita will have work cut out for them.
The team is not as talented and as popular as former BaliPure players Solthones, Alyssa Valdez, Dzi Gervacio, Jerrili Malabanan and Faith Nisperos.
But both Cortez and Abella believe in what their new players can do.
“Hindi naman namin sila kukunin sa team kung hindi kami naniniwala sa kanila. They have the potentials, they have the skills. It is a matter of guiding them. We have players who have a lot of positions and with that, more weapons. I think we will give them a good fight,” explained Cortez.
Added Abella: “I admit we are eyeing a Final Four slot. But the goal really is to see progress of the team from game to game.”
Both Barroga and Espiritu welcomed the challenge of playing for BaliPure against the more-established teams in the PVL.
“We love the challenge. Kung sinasabi nila na underdog kami sa darating na tournament, we see it as an opportunity to prove them wrong,” said Barroga, who played for La Salle in the UAAP.
“Hindi kami natatakot kahit kaninong team. Basta kami, laban lang. Ang sabi nga ni coach Rommel, let’s just play and do our best always,” added Barroga, an opposite hitter in the team
Espiritu said facing new challenges from different teams everyday helps her grow as an athlete.
“It’s always nice to meet new challenges. Yun mga challenges of playing in the PVL helps me grow as an athlete. It helps me become a better player,” Espiritu told sports editors and reporters of TOPS.
“Actually, I’m really excited to play now dahil matagal na ngang walang volleyball competitions dito sa atin. Yun underdog tag ng team, OK lang. No pressure. We’ll just try to beat the other teams,”added Espiritu, who saw action for the San Beda College in the NCAA.
Abella and the two players also claimed the return of Bombita, who will now serve as the team captain, will make the team even better.
“Every year naming nililigawan ang mga magagaling na players. Pagdating kasi sa pilian ng players, matindi rin ang competition. It’s a good thing nakuha namin siya uli. Matagal ko nang kinakausap si Grace, kahit na lumipat siya sa iba ay sabi ko open pa rin siya sa amin na bumalik,” added Abella.
Asked about which teams are now installed as the title favorites in the now-pro PVL, Abella had only two teams on mind.
“For me, F2 and PetroGazz. Sila talaga ang malakas,” said Abella.