The ongoing Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix is overflowing with talented imports who can stand their ground against the power of the world’s best volleyball players.
Stephanie Niemer of Petron, for instance, is a strong open spiker who reigned supreme for University of Cincinnati in the Division I of the US NCAA before campaigning in the tough professional leagues in Puerto Rico and Azerbaijan.
On the same note, Lynda Morales of Cignal is said to be one of the best middle blockers in the Carribean and skippered the Puerto Rican national women’s team in the recent Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Not to be outdone and Lindsay Stalzer, Hayley Spelman, Ariel Usher, Kierra Holst, Serena Warner and Darlene Ramdin, who all present solid credentials with their respective university, national and club teams.
In the past, PSL paraded the likes of University of California-Los Angeles star Bojana Todorovic, former Brazil juniors national team standouts Rupia Inck and Erica Adachi, former University of Florida bomber Kristy Jaeckel and former University of Oregon captain and beauty queen Alaina Bergsma, who is now reportedly making a lot of money competing for Daejeon KGC in the Korean V.League.
Still, local fans have yet to see a blue-chip standout to compete in the country.
And with the PSL successfully hosting the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship where the likes of Foluke Akinradewo and Carli Lloyd of United States, Zhu Ting of China, Tatiana Kosheleva of Russia, Tijana Boskovic and Milena Rasic of Serbia displayed their volleyball brilliance, the hunger of Filipino volleyball spectators just got more intense.
An unimpeachable source revealed that a score of foreign players showed great interest to play in the PSL.
It may sound impossible given the obscene amount of money they are making in big-time leagues in Turkey, Italy and Switzerland, but Manila offers a couple of things other countries do not have that makes it such a perfect destination to play professional volleyball.
The source said the first thing that foreign stars love about the PSL is its short tournament.
He explained that since the Grand Prix runs only from October to December, foreign stars would not feel the brunt of the grueling season unlike in the Turkish Women’s Volleyball League where they have to play a total of 132 matches in the regular season with 12 teams fighting for the crown.
With the short season, foreign players would go back to their respective countries fresh and unscathed, giving them more energy to fulfill their duties with their national teams.
[quote]As much as possible, these players are trying to avoid injuries. These players are making more money with their respective national teams as well. They want to take it easy during club season and they try to avoid getting burned out for their regional and continental tournaments ahead.[/quote]
Come for the weather, stay for the fans
Another reason is Manila’s tropical weather and world-class tourists destinations.
In fact, Brazilian star Gabi Guimaraes and her teammates were looking to have a quick getaway to Boracay during the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship. Unfortunately, their tight schedule didn’t permit them to fly out of Manila during their two-week stay here.
[quote]In the eyes of these foreign stars, the Philippines is a paradise. That’s why we were not surprised when Gabi was bugging us if they can have a quick trip to Boracay. For a Brazilian to do that, it means that she fell in love with our tourists spots even if they just saw them online.[/quote]
The source added that the Filipinos’ warm hospitality, the fans’ great appreciation and over all experience are giving foreign stars reasons to stay here.
The source said PSL clubs are very much open to the idea of having these stars tag along their families, friends or even boyfriends for as long as they deliver their maximum performance every game. At the same time, being an English speaking country gives the PSL an advantage over club leagues in Bangkok, Tokyo and Seoul.
[quote]Here, they are being treated like a true member of the family. We know how to speak English and our fans are the best in the world. That’s why we’re not surprised why Ariel or Lindsay are always here. Even our libero in the CWC wants to go back. The Filipino volleyball community knows how to make them feel special.[/quote]
And there’s only one reason why Manila suddenly barged into the radar of foreign players.
[quote]That’s because we hosted the CWC. It serves as an eye-opener for them. They realized that this small volleyball league in this side of the world is such a perfect destination for foreign players.[/quote]
Into the Hill
One of the blue chip foreign stars who has a handsome chance of playing here is reigning Turkish League Most Valuable Player Kimberly Hill of VakifBank.
A source said the prized opposite spiker and other stars from VakifBank and champion Eczacibasi VitrA partied the night away with some members of the local organizing committee at a posh club in Bonifacio Global City shortly after the curtains of the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship fell down.
During that moment, Hill admitted that she wants to return and get to know about Manila and experience the warm hospitality of thousands of volleyball fans.
Hill is a childhood buddy of Usher in Portland. In fact, they were often spotted enjoying each other’s company during the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship.
Although Usher said that it’s quite impossible for Hill to go here because of her commitment with the Turkish powerhouse, the source maintained that Hill is inclined to make the big move – if and when given the golden opportunity.
[quote]Kim loves it here. She likes the weather, the food, the fans, everything. Although it sounds impossible at this point, let’s see what will happen.[/quote]
The only problem is how much would it take for a local club to bring her here? The source said Hill told him that money would never be a problem.
[quote]She told me she’s open to negotiations. They can always talk.[/quote]
Aside from Hill, Boskovic, Kosheleva and Rachel Adams were also in the same party and didn’t hide their good impression of Manila, a country where volleyball is just taking its baby steps.
The source said bringing all these stars here for three months of volleyball is not impossible.
It’s a miracle everybody’s praying to happen.