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PVL forced to complete Open Conference by Aug. 15 as COVID cases rise in Ilocos Norte

The PVL will be revising its schedule once more for the ongoing 2021 Open Conference in order to have an earlier finish to the competition, according to league commissioner Tony Boy Liao.

Liao explained that the country's first professional volleyball league had to adjust its timeline at the request of Ilocos Norte Gov. Matthew Manotoc as the province continues to see increasing COVID-19 cases.

"[Gov.] Manotoc was being asked why the PVL in Bacarra was not under MECQ while the whole of Ilocos Norte was," Liao told reporters covering the conference. "So [Manotoc] requested (league organizer SportsVision President) Ricky [Palou] if we can finish right away so that we won't have any problem."

According to the Department of Health COVID-19 tracker, Ilocos Norte's average daily attack rate of 44.89 cases per 100,000 population is the highest in the region. Provincial capital Laoag, where players, coaches, media, and league staff are billeted, reportedly had 1,075 cases last Tuesday while Bacarra, where matches are held, had 271.

As such, elimination round games will now be held thrice a day from Thursday to Saturday, with Sunday penciled in as the start of the playoffs. The week of August 8-15 will then feature the best of-three semifinals and finals.

Most teams will have to play back-to-back matches or two games in three days, while a few will also have to see action three game days in a row for the elims to remain on schedule.

The revised schedule begins on August 5 with the PLDT-BaliPure tiff at 1 p.m. followed by Black Mamba-Army vs. Perlas Spikers and Petro Gazz vs. Sta. Lucia.

Presently, the undefeated Flying Titans are pacing the field with the defending champion Cool Smashers not that far behind. The Crossovers and Angels are then tied for the last two spots in the Final Four even as the Lady Realtors and Lady Troopers are still in the running.

The Purest Water Defenders, Power Hitters, HD Spikers, and Perlas Spikers, meanwhile, are all planning to play spoiler.