COLLEGE of Saint Benilde, seeking to move on without its two key players from last season’s title run, squares off with University of Perpetual Help System Dalta on Monday at the start of the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Jannine Navarro and Djanel Cheng have already graduated, leaving a gaping hole for the Lady Blazers in terms of offense and playmaking.
But St. Benilde is still a force to be reckoned with in the middle, as last season’s Finals MVP Jeanette Panaga and Ranya Musa are still there to carry the fight.
The Lady Blazers and the Lady Altas, who were toughened by participating in off-season leagues, clash at 2 p.m.
Defending men’s titlist Perpetual Help, for its part, opens its title-retention campaign as it clashes with St. Benilde at the start of the men’s action Wednesday at the same San Juan venue.
The Lady Blazers came out of nowhere as they overcame a tremendous thrice-to-beat disadvantage to stun Grethcel Soltones-led San Sebastian in the Finals last year to claim their very first championship.
The Lady Stags, hoping to give Soltones a crown in her final season in the league, play Arellano University at 3:30 p.m.
“Hopefully, we’ll win it this year,” said Soltones, the reigning two-time MVP who is hoping to end a long five-year title drought for San Sebastian.
The Lady Chiefs will have to do without middle hitter CJ Rosario, who has already completed her playing eligibility.
The St. Benilde-Perpetual Help duel is set at 2 p.m., which will be preceded by an opening ceremony highlighted by a St. Benilde’s dance group that has won a world hip-hop dance contest this year.