If the 2024 Akari Invitational Cup would be any indication, the forthcoming volleyball wars are bound to be sensational.
This pre-season tournament provided glimpses of what the future holds for some of the brightest talents and teams in the local scene.
Now that it has come to a conclusion, let us take a look at five developments that could come to affect the UAAP and PVL landscapes.
Adamson flaunts maturity beyond years
Nothing provides a better boost of confidence to the Adamson Lady Falcons in its buildup to the UAAP other than its Akari Cup stint.
While the Lady Falcons already tested their mettle against fellow collegiate teams during the 2023 Shakey's Super League National Invitational, the experience could not measure up to standing toe-to-toe with professional volleyball clubs.
Adamson did just that — and more — in the Akari Cup.
Without veteran Lorene Toring, who suffered an ACL injury in January, the Lady Falcons could have lost morale, more so when they endured a season-opening loss to the Akari Chargers; but they displayed composure and resilience instead.
[READ MORE: UAAP: Lorene Toring bids farewell to Adamson due to ACL injury]
Adamson went on a spirited run, defeating the Nxled Chameleons, Arellano Lady Chiefs, Perpetual Lady Altas, and Ateneo Blue Eagles in the preliminaries before knocking out the Chameleons once more in the semifinals.
Pitted against the Chargers in the Finals, the Lady Falcons exacted sweet revenge, soaring to the title.
[RELATED: Adamson Lady Falcons upset Akari Chargers to rule Akari Invitational Cup]
While some may argue that the club teams were missing pieces throughout the tournament, the San Marcelino-based squad still picked up morale-boosting victories over more experienced foes.
[READ MORE: Fresh start: Lucille Almonte is ready to step up for Adamson after departure of key players]
Ivy Lacsina recuperates from knee sprain
Speaking of missing pieces, the Nxled Chameleons could not help but miss the services of Ivy Lacsina throughout their Akari Cup stint.
The 6-foot-1 wing spiker suffered a right knee sprain in practice and has since been recuperating from the injury.
[READ MORE: PVL: Ivy Lacsina targets March debut for Nxled as she recovers from knee injury]
The sudden development has hampered Nxled's bid for team cohesion in its buildup to the PVL All-Filipino Conference.
This proved apparent in the pre-season tournament, where the Chameleons finished third place behind champion Adamson and second-placer Akari.
Lacsina, who signed with the Nxled after F2 Logistics' disbandment, is expected to miss the intial PVL gamedates and return in March.
[RELATED: Nxled turns back Ateneo, secures Akari Invitational Cup bronze]
Max Juangco flashes potential for Akari
Ahead of the PVL All-Filipino Conference, Akari's libero Justine Jazareno has shifted her focus from being an athlete towards being a mother.
[RELATED: PVL: Akari’s Justine Jazareno takes leave of absence due to pregnancy]
In light of her pregnancy, the Chargers needed someone to step in Jazareno's role, which led to Max Juangco's signing.
Juangco, who decided to turn pro and leave Far Eastern University, showed flashes of her potential for Akari and helped stabilize the Chargers' floor defense with veteran Bang Pineda.
Save for the championship match, the Chargers were a force to be reckoned with, dispatching every team in four sets or less.
Expect Juangco to continue to find her niche in interim coach Raffy Mosuela's system.
[RELATED: PVL: Max Juangco turns pro with the Akari Chargers]
Roma Mae Doromal embraces leadership role for Ateneo
Another floor defensive specialist who turned heads in the Akari Cup is Roma Mae Doromal.
While her ability to patrol the floor deserves praise, Doromal has also opened eyes with her willingness to lead the rebuilding Ateneo Lady Eagles.
In the buildup to UAAP Season 86, the Katipunan-based squad saw the departure of Faith Nisperos and Vanie Gandler. Ateneo also made a coaching switch from Oliver Almadro to Sergio Veloso.
As the Lady Eagles continue to adjust to these changes, Doromal serves as a steady presence for her teammates.
This proved evident in the pre-season tournament, where Doromal showed her resolve to keep Ateneo's morale high in the face of formidable opposition.
The Lady Eagles finished at fourth place after putting up a gallant stand against Nxled.
[READ MORE: UAAP: Roma Mae Doromal embraces leadership in rebuilding Blue Eagles]
Akari Cup provides a competitive ground for varsity and club teams
With the UAAP and the PVL drawing near, every team would dare not to pass up on opportunities to grow.
One of these opportunities was provided by the Akari Invitational Cup, where squads from the collegiate circuit and pro scene clashed.
Akari Chargers captain Michelle Cobb offered some perspective on this matter.
"Importante ito para sa preparation namin kasi ang hirap ngayon makakuha ng tune-up games. Ito 'yung beauty ng may tune-up, di lang siya tune-up, actually. Games na may mga referees and all, ito talaga 'yung for me makaka-boost sa amin going into the PVL," the former De La Salle playmaker shared.
"We’re playing in a real-life situation. Hindi lang training, training na kami-kami lang naglalaro. Iba-ibang tao, iba-ibang situation... So malaking factor itong Akari Cup sa preparation namin."
The volleyball tournaments of Season 86 will begin on February 17, while the 2024 PVL season is expected to start on February 20.