When Cagayan finally upended Smart-Maynilad for the Shakey’s V-League Open Tournament crown last week, the Beatles’ song ‘Here Comes the Sun’ was up in the air. Indeed, the Cagayan Rising Suns have arrived. With national players Angeli Tabaquero, Aiza Maizo, Pau Soriano and Weng Eulalia, plus the two bad-ass Thai imports Kannika Thipachot and Soraya Phomla, the Suns would achieve a first-ever no-loss slate in the history of the Shakey’s V-League Open Tournament.
The Smart-Maynilad Net Spikers refused to go down without a fight though. Smart dragged the Cagayanos to two nail-biting, gut-wrenching 5-set epics, leaving everything including the kitchen sink on the floor. Smart came with an all-star cast led by fan-favorite Alyssa Valdez, Dindin Santiago and Rubie De Leon, and ably supported by their prolific Thai imports Kesinee Lithawat and Wanida Kotruang. Despite the star-studded line-up, they just couldn’t convince the Valkyries of volleyball that they were worthy to bring home the crown.
There was Kannika hammering those scorching killer spikes to highlight the Suns’ offensive arsenal. And there was Soraya’s superb setting that bothered and bewildered Smart’s net defenders no end. But it was Cagayan’s defense, starring Weng, Aiza, Pau and the diminutive Jhek Dionela, that played the pivotal role, frustrating Smart’s countless offensives with good coverage, great communication and those death-defying digs inside the court.
On the opposite end of the court, with top-scorer Alyssa marked well by the Cagayan defense, Dindin would surreptitiously take over the scoring load. Din had been a doubtful starter for Smart due to her pressing college commitments. But she was there, playing her heart out. Scoring, defending, even hurting her finger in the process. Kesinee, Alyssa’a buddy in their Ateneo volley days, joined the scoring parade with her signature running kills, but their efforts would simply fall short.
In the final set of the final marathon-of-a-match, both crews would drag their feet to the court wondering who would blink first. Both teams engaged with all their guns blazing. And as the smoke of battle cleared, only one team was left standing. Cagayan – bloodied, battered, but unbowed – barely surviving Smart’s onslaught and dishing out its own in return. That cerebral setter Soraya would take MVP honors in the finals. For Cagayan, it was time to celebrate.
It all started with a lady’s vision. Alcala Mayor and Cagayan Team Manager Criselda Antonio dared to dream big. Today, that dream has become a sweet reality.
We’d like to thank Shakey’s for giving us fans a tourney to remember. We’d like to thank Mayor Antonio for giving inspiration to the ordinary people with the quality of the fan-friendly team she created. Hats off to Coach Nes Pamilar for optimizing the talents and developing the chemistry of the team. And we’d also like to thank the Smart-Maynilad for that wonderful run that took them from the middle of the pack to a near-title finish. The spunk you demonstrated is truly admirable.
To all the players and officials who made the tournament a success, we salute you. And to all the fans who were there rooting for their teams, or were elsewhere, but whose hearts were there, thank you for supporting our ladies. Thank you, all, for the good memories. Please sing with me as we reminisce the Shakey’s Finals and the women who made this a truly magical experience.
(There will be a Shakey’s All-Star weekend on Nov 16 and 17 at the San Juan Arena. The 16th will feature the Collegiate All-Stars, while the 17th will showcase the Open Conference Selection. This will be a good chance to meet our players, chat and learn from them. Do join us at the San Juan Arena.)
For more on the Shakey’s V-League Open Women’s volleyball:
(Photos courtesy of Pinoy Spikers, Shakey’s V-League and Arnold Z Cruz)
Got 2 songs here for you: Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman” and the Beatles “Here Comes the Sun”. You can sing with me as you browse thru the pics.