The inaugural Pro Volleyball Federation season launches on Wednesday, so the wait to see how American fans will react to the latest attempt to establish women’s volleyball as a viable professional sport will soon be over.
The PVF has some strong positives. The Omaha franchise already has generated solid ticket sales in the volleyball-crazed state of Nebraska. The Columbus team was successful in signing the best player in college volleyball and the league’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Asjia O’Neal. All of the franchises will play in arenas that should come off as big-league on TV to casual fans, if seats seen on camera range can be filled. And rosters are graced with skilled and talented athletes who should ace the eye test.
The startup venture does have some negatives to overcome. The PVF was unable to bring aboard any of the stars of the USA Olympic team that won the gold medal in the 2021 Tokyo Games. Most of the name value of its top players stems from their accomplishments in the non-traditional Athletes Unlimited league that receives minimal mainstream exposure. And the deal the PVF was able to scare up for national TV puts it on a third-tier cable channel that apparently won’t televise a PVF match until the conclusion of the college-basketball regular season.
Since the PVF played no exhibition matches, VolleyballMag has no option other than play the problematic “Who’s best on paper?” game. The resources-rich Omaha Supernovas seem to hold a significant “paper” edge over the rest of the league, with the pins-potent Atlanta Vibe perhaps the next best team. We’ll find out quickly whether paper bears much weight, since the ‘Supernovas and Vibe clash in the PVF’s opening salvo at Omaha’s CHI Health Center on Wednesday night (8 p.m. Eastern, Stadium streaming sports network).
Look for our team-by-team breakdown later Monday.
Ten players of influence
Continuing down the paper trail, listed below, in order, are my 10 most influential players in the first season of the Pro Volleyball Federation. Pin hitters invariably are the difference-makers in any level of volleyball:
Bethania De La Cruz, Omaha Supernovas: If you are an international volleyball fan or one who has paid any attention to the pro Athletes Unlimited league, you should be well aware of the impact De La Cruz can make on a match. The 6-foot-2 superstar outside hitter out of the…