Thea Gagate (center) (Photo courtesy of PVL)

MANILA – As expected, Thea Gagate became the first-ever top pick in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) rookie draft, held red-carpet style at Novotel Manila Araneta in Quezon City on Monday.

Gagate will suit up for Zus Coffee, the former Strong Group team which ended up winless in the recent All-Filipino Conference.

“I’m very honored and grateful for being the top pick,” the three-time Best Middle Blocker of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines said in a PVL news release. “I will do my very best to lift the team up in the ranks.”

Fellow La Salle alumna Leila Cruz, Julia Coronel and Maicah Larozza were selected next by Capital1, Galeries Tower and Farm Fresh, respectively, in the event where mainstays of the 12 teams and the rookies showed up in gowns and elegant dresses.

“I’m very excited to start my pro career and very grateful to Capital1 for trusting me,” Cruz said.

Coronel promised “to give my best always, whenever and however I’m needed.”

Nxled picked Lucille Almonte at No. 5 and Akari opted for University of the Philippines’ Steph Bustrillo.

The rest of the first-round picks were Cignal’s Rochelle Lalongisip, PLDT’s Angelica Alcantara, Chery Tiggo’s Karen Verdeflor, Petro Gazz’s Antonette Adolfo, Choco Mucho’s Lorraine Pecaña and Creamline’s Aleiah Torres from Brock University in Canada.

Premier Volleyball League first-ever rookie draft held at Novotel Manila Araneta in Quezon City on Monday (July 8, 2024). (Photo courtesy of PVL)

Zus added Sharya Ancheta, Nikka Yandoc and Jen Zeta; Capital1 also got Roma Mae Doromal and Gilliana Torres; and Galeries took Jewel Encarnacion, Dodee Batindaan and Danivah Aying.

Pierre Abellana will play for Farm Fresh, Razel Aldea for Nxled and Donnalyn Paralejas for Petro Gazz.

A total of 47 tried their luck.

The PVL also held the Draft Combine at Gameville Ball Park in Mandaluyong City on June 25 and 26, with free agents joining the newcomers in the hope of securing contracts.

The Reinforced Conference will kick off July 16 at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City, with the Galeries Highrisers taking on the Nxled Chameleons at 2 p.m.; Chery Crossovers battling Farm Fresh Foxies at 4 p.m.; and Creamline Cool Smashers testing PLDT Hitters at 6 p.m. (PNA)