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Even without Serena, Aussie Open women s field still tough

By Justin Bergman, Associated Press MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Without defending champion Serena Williams in the draw at the Australian Open, there's certainly an opportunity for another player to go on a surprising run and emerge as a first-time Grand Slam champion. Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko did it last year. Just don't describe the first Grand Slam of the year as "more open" than usual. "Whenever I get asked that question, it always comes across in really kind of an almost negative way instead of acknowledging how many great players we have," Johanna Konta, who reached the semifinals of Wimbledon last year, said in her pre-tournament news conference Saturday. "The depth in women's tennis, I really do believe in the last few years, has gotten so strong," she added. "There's no straight sailing to the quarters or semis. It doesn't exist." Stephens agrees the Australian Open field is still extremely tough, even without Williams, the 23-time major winner. Williams withdrew from the tournament to recover from health issues after a complicated childbirth in September. "There's a lot of great players," Stephens said. "It's up for grabs." A new face will be holding the trophy at Melbourne Park in two weeks. The No. 1-ranking changed seven times in 2017, with five different women assuming top spot — three for the first time. Top-ranked Simona Halep is looking to finally break through and win her first major after twice finishing runner-up. She won the season-opening Shenzhen Open in China, but has mixed results at Melbourne Park, losing in the first round the last two years. "I don't feel pressure. I feel OK. I feel fit. I feel ready to start," Halep said. "I have one more goal: to win a Grand Slam." Stephens made a stellar run to the U.S. Open title after missing several months with an injured left foot. She's struggled to adjust to the sudden stardom that's come with being a Grand Slam champion — losing seven straight matches since September — but believes she can find her game again in Melbourne. "I think it's always a tough transition when you go from not playing tennis for 11 months to winning a Grand Slam," she said. "I like to just stay in my own little bubble and do my own thing. ... It's kind of been what I'm trying to do." There are plenty of other contenders. Ostapenko, now 20, rocketed up the rankings after her stunning win at the French Open. Venus Williams is a threat at 37 years old after finishing runner-up to her sister last year. Angelique Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open winner, won the Sydney International title on Saturday. Garbine Muguruza is the reigning Wimbledon champion, though her health has been in question at the start of the new year. Caroline Wozniacki had a career-reviving 2017 season and could return to the No. 1 ranking for the first time in six years with a strong showing in Melbourne. Maria Sharpova, the 2008 winner, returns after missing last year's Australian Open because of a drug suspension. And then there's Elina Svitolina, who earned her 10th tour title last week at the Brisbane International. She has a shot at No. 1 during the Australian Open. "I had a great week in Brisbane. Of course, I'm confident," she said. But she added that isn't enough in the constantly shifting, ultra-competitive women's game. "Everyone wants to win a Grand Slam," Svitolina said. "So, I try to find my way, what can help me to be there, to be ready for the fight.".....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJan 13th, 2018

Even without Williams, Aussie Open women’s field still tough

MELBOURNE, Australia --- With no Serena Williams in the draw at the Australian Open, there's certainly an opportunity for another women's player to go on a surprising run and emerge as a first-time Grand Slam champion, as Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko did last year. Just don't describe the first Grand Slam of the year as "more open" than usual. "Whenever I get asked that question, it always comes across in really kind of an almost negative way instead of acknowledging how many great players we have," Johanna Konta, who reached the semifinals of Wimbledon last year, said in her pre-tournament news conference Saturday. "The depth in women's tennis I really do believe i...Keep on reading: Even without Williams, Aussie Open women’s field still tough.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 13th, 2018

NCAA Season 93: women s volleyball preview

Exciting volleyball action starts early this year as NCAA opens its 93rd season on Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan. Arellano University will try to retain its women’s crown against a field filled with squad’s raring to sit on the throne. Let’s take a quick peek at the competing teams.   MAPUA UNIVERSITY LADY CARDINALS   Winless last year, can Mapua University finally put a stop on their skid?  Season 92 record: 0-9 Titles: none  Key players: Danielle Ramilo, Shaira Hermano, Katrina Racelis, Dianne Latayan This team has nowhere to go but up after a forgettable season last year. The Lady Cardinals lost four of their games in straight sets, three in four frames and a couple of matches in five. Mapua’s last victory was against Letran in five sets back in Season 91 (January 7, 2016).   EMILIO AGUINALDO COLLEGE LADY GENERALS   Emilio Aguinaldo College needs to be consistent to add more Ws in their record this season.  Season 92 record: 1-8 Titles: none Players to watch: Iona Yongco and Yvette Tongco EAC’s lone win last season came at the expense of Mapua in straight sets before closing their campaign with a five-set loss against Letran.   LETRAN LADY KNIGHTS   Can Letran contend for a spot in the Final Four this year? Season 92 record: 2-7 Titles: 8 (last title: 1999) Players to watch: Glayssa Faith Torres and Jaymeleene Parin Letran finished at eighth spot last year. They won only two games, against Mapua and EAC, but gave Lyceum, College of St. Benilde and San Sebastian College a scare before bowing down to these powerhouse teams in five sets.   JOSE RIZAL U LADY BOMBERS   Shola Alvarez is expected to carry Jose Rizal University on her shoulders but will need to get support from her teammates. Season 92 record: 3-6 Titles: none Players to watch: Shola Alvarez, Dolly Versoza, Karen Montojo (Season 92 Best Opposite Spiker) JRU is a young and vertically challenged team, mostly banking on Shola Alvarez for point production. The Lady Bombers joined the PVL’s Collegiate Conference during the offseason but lost all of their five matches.    LYCEUM OF THE PHILIPPINES U LADY PIRATES   Lyeum of the Philippines University is considered as a darkhorse this season.  Season 92 record: 5-4 Titles: none Players to watch: Cherilyn Sindayen, Christine Miralles, Bien Juanillo An intact and veteran-laden team. But will the Lady Pirates’ exposure in the PVL Collegiate Conference be enough for them to contend for a spot in the Final Four?     UNIVERSITY OF PERPETUAL HELP LADY ALTAS   Veteran Lourdes Clemente will be one of Perpetual Help's vital cogs in their campaign to reclaim the throne.   Season 92 record: 5-4 Titles: 3 (last title: 2014) Players to watch: Lourdes Clemente, Necelle Gual, Marijo Medalla Former CSB coach Macky Carino replaced long-time mentor Sammy Acaylar but the Lady Altas lost a solid middle in Coleen Bravo and hitter Jamela Suyat. After its three-peat (2012-14), Perpetual has yet to return to the Finals.     SAN BEDA COLLEGE LADY RED SPIKERS   All eyes will be on Cesca Racraquin when San Beda College makes a run for the crown. Season 92 record: 6-3 Titles: none Players to watch: Cesca Racraquin, Satrianni Espiritu, Nieza and Jiezela Viray Season 92 Rookie of the Year Cesca Racraquin will be the go-to guy of the Lady Red Spikers, who made it into the stepladder semis last year. SBC participated in the PVL Collegiate Conference while Racraquin had good stints in the PVL Reinforced and Open conferences for Creamline.      COLLEGE OF ST. BENILDE LADY BLAZERS   Ranya Musa (left) and Rachel Austero are the players to watch for a beefed up College of St. Benilde. Season 92 record: 6-3 Titles: 1 (2016) Players to watch: Ranya Musa, Rachel Austero, Maritess Pablo, Felicia Cui Expectations are high for this team with the arrival of transferees Maritess Pablo (NU) and Felicia Cui (Ateneo) to help Rachel Austero and graduating player Ranya Musa.     Leadership will be a tough challenge for this team after the departure of ace scorer Jeanette Panaga as well as adapting to a new system under interim head coach Arnold Laniog, who replaced Macky Carino.     SAN SEBASTIAN COLLEGE LADY STAGS   San Sebastian College is looking at a rough and bumpy road ahead this season. Season 92 record: 9-0 elims, defeated thrice in the Finals Titles: 23 (last title: 2011) Players to watch: Joyce Sta. Rita, Alyssa Eroa, Nikka Dalisay The most-decorated volleyball program in the NCAA will be facing its toughest season yet. If losing scorers three-time Most Valuable Player Grethcel Soltones and Kat Villegas weren’t enough, head coach Roger Goreyab will have at his disposal a very short rotation on nine players. But his available players could even go down entering the season after Julie Anne Tiangco suffered a knee injury recently. Scarcity of players even forced SSC-R to field a swimmer to fill in the required minimun of nine players to be able to participate in the tournament.       ARELLANO UNIVERSITY LADY CHIEFS   Who will stop Arellano University from its back-to-back bid? Season 92 record: 8-1, won thrice in a row in the Finals Titles: 2 (last title: 2017) Players to watch: Jovielyn Prado, Regine Arocha, Andrea Marzan The Lady Chiefs lost Rialen Sante and veteran libero Eunice Galang, who both graduated, after last season but will still parade a grizzled core. Fueled by their stints in the PVL including a third place finish in the Collegiate League at the expense of UAAP team Adamson University, Arellano U is expected to make a return trip into the Finals. With SSC-R, the only team to defeat the Obet Javier-mentored squad last year, weakened after the departure of Soltones, the only question now is who will stop the Lady Chiefs’ impending rampage?       --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2018

Serena loses in exhibition comeback after giving birth

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Serena Williams lost in her return to tennis after giving birth in September, beaten by French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in an exhibition Saturday and still unsure if she will defend her Australian Open title. Williams called it a "wonderful" match despite the defeat — she took the second set in a score of 6-2, 3-6 and 10-5 in a super tiebreaker. The Australian Open, the year's first Grand Slam tournament, begins Jan. 15. "I don't know if I am totally ready to come back on the tour yet. I know that when I come back I definitely want to be competing for championships. I am definitely looking forward to getting back out there," Williams said. "I am taking it one day at a time. I am going to assess everything with my team before deciding." The 36-year-old Williams took time off after winning the Australian Open last January while pregnant. She gave birth to her first child, a girl named Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., on Sept. 1. She married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in November. Williams struggled with her serve in the 67-minute match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. But, after nearly a year away from the game, she did win a set against the world's No. 7 player "I don't think I am going to rate my performance," Williams said. "I have plenty of comebacks, from injuries, from surgeries, but I've never had a comeback after actually giving birth to a human being. So, in my eyes, I feel it was a wonderful, wonderful match for me." Williams insisted she has a lot more tennis to play. "Knowing that I have won 23 Grand Slam titles and several other titles, I don't think I have anything more left to prove," she said. "But I am not done yet." Williams won her opening game, breaking Ostapenko. But she was nowhere near her best in the first set before fighting back and winning the second. After the initial break, Ostapenko latched onto Williams' weak serves and capitalized on several unforced errors to go up 4-1 with two breaks. Williams again struggled with her serve in the second set. But she went ahead 3-0 with a couple of early breaks and hit with more confidence, including several crowd-pleasing double-handed passing shots. Another break in the ninth game gave her the set. "In the beginning, it felt a little tough. But as the match moved on, I was less afraid. I knew I was not going to fall over and break," she said. "The more I played, the more confident I felt that I would be able to go for shots that I was afraid to go for in the first set." In the super tiebreaker, Ostapenko raced to an 8-2 lead before halting a brief recovery by Williams. "For me, it is all about physical, how I am feeling physically. ... I am just proud being out here and playing in Abu Dhabi and to be able to just compete," Williams said. "I have had a tough few months and I am just excited to be able to play again." It was the first time a women's match had been played in the traditionally men's only exhibition. U.S. Open runner-up Kevin Anderson defeated Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 7-6 (0) in the men's final. The 14th-ranked Anderson immediately broke Bautista Agut and was never in danger of losing serve in the first set. In the second set, Bautista Agut broke in the second game, but the South African broke back immediately. An aggressive Anderson swept the tiebreaker......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2017

Australian Open: Svitolina into 4th round, ends 15-year-old Kostyuk’s run

MELBOURNE, Australia --- Elina Svitolina ended 15-year-old Marta Kostyuk's run at the Australian Open, met her at the net for a warm embrace and offered some words of encouragement. With the temperature hitting 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for the second straight day, fourth-seeded Svitolina reached the fourth round at the season-opening major for the first time with the 6-2, 6-2 win on Rod Laver Arena. "It was sad playing another Ukrainian girl, same country is always tough," Svitolina, one of five women in contention for the No. 1 ranking, said. "She's a great fighter. She has a great future --- we're going to hear a lot more about her." Kostyuk entered the tournament rank...Keep on reading: Australian Open: Svitolina into 4th round, ends 15-year-old Kostyuk’s run.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated News18 hr. 10 min. ago

Players criticize risky conditions at broiling Aussie Open

By Justin Bergman, Associated Press MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Some weary players sat shirtless on changeovers, ice-filled towels draped around their necks. Others retreated to any bit of shade they could find on court and sought treatment for blistered feet and heat stress. Temperatures soared to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) as the start of an expected heat wave hit the Australian Open on Thursday, bringing misery to players unfortunate enough to have their matches scheduled during the day session and keeping many spectators away. "I didn't expect to play this kind of match," a thoroughly exhausted Juan Martin del Potro said after beating Karen Khachanov in a nearly four-hour, second-round match. "I prefer to watch on TV. Or stay on the beach, drinking some beer." Scorching temperatures are common at the Australian Open — so much so the tournament has an extreme heat policy that allows for the referee to close the roofs on the three main show courts and suspend play on the outer courts when temperatures surpass 40 Celsius. Matches weren't halted Thursday as the highs stayed just below 40 Celsius for much of the day, but that doesn't mean the heat didn't cause issues for the players. Gael Monfils, for one, staggered through a good portion of his second-round match against Novak Djokovic, bending over repeatedly to catch his breath between points and at one stage returning to the comfort of his shaded chair without even attempting to return Djokovic's serve. Afterwards, he called the conditions "risky" for the players, especially with the new rule restricting the time between points to 25 seconds. "I get super dizzy. I think I have a small heat stroke for 40 minutes," said Monfils, who is considered one of the fittest players on tour. "At that time, the officials have to make a move. Maybe wait a little bit, whatever, five minutes between the set. Maybe they have to do small adjustment." Djokovic agreed, describing the conditions "brutal" and some of the toughest he's ever played in. "There are certain days where you just have to, as a tournament supervisor, recognize that you might need to give players few extra hours until (the temperature) comes down," he said. "I understand there is a factor of tickets. If you don't play matches, people will be unhappy." But he said the conditions were at the point where it becomes a "danger in terms of health." There were no retirements due to the heat on Day 4, however, and some players were even unfazed by the conditions. Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei saw the heat as a benefit in her second-round upset of Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza. "I know the weather is going to be a little bit tough today," she said. "I was thinking, 'Ah, I'm from Asia. I maybe can handle it better than other girls.'" Muguruza did have to stop at one point to wrap her feet to prevent blistering from the hot court. "I think the surface of the court, I don't know how much heat, (but) it's terrible," she said. "Very, very hot." As for recovery, nearly every player mentioned taking an ice bath, but Hsieh had a different approach. "Acupuncture," she said. "Not my favorite ... but it helps a lot. And also do the massage. And eat some nice food." With the weather expected to be hotter on Friday, with highs of 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) in the forecast, Monfils had a message for players scheduled to be on court. "Honestly, good luck for the players," he said. "Just be smart. If you have to give up, you know, it's not a shame.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2018

Venus Williams, US champion Stephens out in 1st round

MELBOURNE, Australia --- In her first match at the Australian Open since a Williams sister was guaranteed to win the title, Venus Williams lost in the first round to Belinda Bencic and ensured it cannot happen in 2018. Venus lost last year's final at Melbourne Park to younger sibling Serena, who clinched an Open era-record 23rd major but hasn't played a Grand Slam tournament since because of her pregnancy and the birth of her first child. The 6-3, 7-5 loss for Venus Williams was her first in five career meetings with Bencic, who lost to Serena Williams in the first round here last year. It was a bleak opening day for American women, with U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, No. 10-se...Keep on reading: Venus Williams, US champion Stephens out in 1st round.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 15th, 2018

Aches, pains and illness ahead of Aussie Open

MELBOURNE — An unusually long list of injuries and illnesses could take its toll on the Australian Open, which has already seen withdrawals by Serena Williams and Andy Murray. AFP Sport gives the rundown of who has been struggling in the lead-up to the first Grand Slam of the year which starts on Monday: NOVAK […] The post Aches, pains and illness ahead of Aussie Open appeared first on BusinessWorld......»»

Category: financeSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsJan 15th, 2018

Federer deflects attention to Nadal, Djokovic in Australia

By John Pye, Associated Press MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer prefers to think of Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic as the favorites for the Australian Open title, despite entering as defending champion and coming off a worry-free preparation. "I play down my chances just because I don't think a 36-year-old should be a favorite of a tournament," Federer said Sunday on the eve of the year's first Grand Slam tournament, "It should not be the case. "That's why I see things more relaxed, you know, at a later stage of my career." The 19-time major winner can afford to relax slightly longer, given the half of the draw that he shares with Djokovic doesn't start until day two. Top-ranked Nadal will get under way Monday night against Victor Estrella Burgos on Rod Laver Arena, where he lost the final in five sets to Federer last year. All four singles finalists were 30 or older here last year in what became a tournament for the ages, and three of them are back. Serena Williams beat her older sister Venus Williams in the final to capture an Open era-record 23rd major here last year but decided against defending her title because she didn't have enough time to recover from health issues after a complicated childbirth in September. Venus Williams is seeded fifth and is second match scheduled on center court to get her 77th major under way with a challenging opener against Belinda Bencic. She's 4-0 in career head-to-heads against 20-year-old Bencic — who reached a career-high No. 7 ranking in 2016 and who helped Federer win the Hopman Cup title for Switzerland earlier this month — but is coming off an abbreviated preparation that included a loss in the second round to eventual champion Angelique Kerber at the Sydney International last week. At 37, Venus Williams among the top contenders at Melbourne Park. Others in action on Monday include seventh-seeded Jelena Ostapenko, who meets Francesca Schiavone in a match featuring current vs. former French Open champions, No. 2-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, who opens against Mihaela Buzarnescu, and U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens against Zhang Shuai. Simona Halep is the No. 1 seed in the women's draw, and one of six women who can hold the No. 1 ranking at the end of the Australian Open. Halep, who has had back-to-back first-round exits on her last two trips to Melbourne Park, opens on day two against Australian wild-card entry Destanee Aiava. Only two men can hold the top ranking in the first week of February — Nadal or Federer — regardless of what No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov or No. 4 Alexander Zverev or anybody else does in Melbourne. Federer returns in contrasting circumstances to his appearance in 2017, when he was coming off a six-month break for an injured left knee and had low expectations about ending a Grand Slam title drought that dated to Wimbledon in 2012. "This year I hope to win the first few rounds and get rolling hopefully, whereas last year I was just hoping to win," a match, Federer told his pre-tournament news conference Sunday. "It was more of a 'let's see what happens' kind of tournament, maybe similar to what Novak or Stan (Wawrinka) or others are going through this year." Six-time Australian Open winner Djokovic has been sidelined for six months with an injured right elbow, returning with a remodeled service motion, and 2014 champion Wawrinka has also been out of the game since Wimbledon after surgery on his knee. Nadal, who won the French and U.S. Open titles last year, has also had a limited preparation restricted to couple of exhibition matches last week as he recovers from a sore knee. None of that makes them any less of a threat to Federer. "Rafa, with the year that he's had, and Novak with the six titles he's had here, even if it's unknown how he's feeling, they could very well be the favorites, too," Federer said. "If you're in the draw, you give yourself a chance. That's what happened for me last year — all ended up way better than I thought it would, as you know.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2018

Konta sees positives in open women s Grand Slam

MELBOURNE, Australia – Johanna Konta believes that the lack of a clear favorite for the Australian Open reflects the growing strength in depth of women's tennis. Asked by reporters if the year's first Grand Slam – which begins Monday, January 15 without defending champion and new mum Serena Williams – was ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJan 14th, 2018

Halep, Wozniacki lead race to seize Serena’s Aussie crown

MELBOURNE — Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki spearhead the charge to succeed Serena Williams at an Australian Open left wide open by the withdrawal of the defending champion and new mum. A pregnant Williams sealed her 23rd Grand Slam singles title and seventh Melbourne Park crown a year ago, but last week announced she wouldn’t […] The post Halep, Wozniacki lead race to seize Serena’s Aussie crown appeared first on BusinessWorld......»»

Category: newsSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsJan 10th, 2018

Halep, Wozniacki lead race to seize Serena s Aussie crown

MELBOURNE, Australia – Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki spearhead the charge to succeed Serena Williams at an Australian Open left wide open by the withdrawal of the defending champion and new mom. A pregnant Williams sealed her 23rd Grand Slam singles title and 7th Melbourne Park crown a year ago, but ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJan 10th, 2018

Wozniacki senses ‘great’ Aussie Open despite Auckland loss

Caroline Wozniacki declared she was preparing for a "great" Australian Open as she closed in on regaining the world top ranking despite a surprise defeat in the WTA Auckland Classic final on Sunday. The 27-year-old Dane is projected to rise to number two in the world when the new rankings are released on Monday and if results go her way in Australia she could make a record-setting return to number one, a position she last held six years ago. The current record for the longest gap between being ranked number one is held by Serena Williams who spent five years and 29 days off the top spot between August 10, 2003, and September 8, 2008. Although beaten 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) by world number 14...Keep on reading: Wozniacki senses ‘great’ Aussie Open despite Auckland loss.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 7th, 2018

Philippines Amateur Open unwraps in windy condition

MANILA, Philippines — Premium will be on club selection and ball control as the huge international field braces for a tough outing in the 2018 Philippine Ama.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 4th, 2018

Arellano U jumpstarts repeat bid

Games Thursday: (FilOil Flying V Arena) 8:00 a.m. -- SSC-R vs EAC (jrs) 9:30 a.m. -- SSC-R vs EAC (m) 11 a.m. -- Opening Ceremony 12 noon -- SSC-R vs EAC (w) 1:30 p.m. -- AU vs MU (w) 3:00 p.m. -- AU vs MU (m)   Arellano University begins its repeat bid Thursday when the Lady Chiefs cross paths with Mapua University in the 93rd NCAA women’s volleyball tournament at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan. The reigning champion Lady Chiefs will parade an almost intact lineup and will have the advantage of firepower with their veterans against the Lady Cardinals, who went winless last season. Game time is at 1:30 p.m. after the San Sebastian College and Emilio Aguinaldo College tussle at 12:00 noon. The women’s games will air live on ABS-CBN S+A Channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD Channel 166 and via livestream. The opening ceremony is scheduled at 11:00 p.m. after the juniors game between SSC-R and EAC at 8:00 a.m. and their men’s teams’ showdown at 9:30 a.m. Arellano U closed Season 92 with 12 straight wins including the shocking Finals sweep against the thrice-to-beat and then Grethcel Soltones-led Lady Stags to claim its second title since winning it all back in Season 91. The Lady Chiefs lost Rialen Sante and libero Eunice Galang after they graduated last season but the Obet Javierp-mentored squad will still have a lethal crew with the return of Jovielyn Prado, Mary Anne Esguerra, seasoned setter Rhea Ramirez, Andrea Marza and Regine Arocha. Arellano U will also try to ride the momentum of their breakthrough third place finish in the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference a couple of months back to open its title-retention bid on a high note. While the Lady Chiefs are enjoying the luxury of a solid lineup, SSC-R is looking at a rough road ahead after the departure of three-time Most Valuable Player Soltones and another veteran Kat Villegas. The Lady Stags have the shortest rotation in the field with only nine players. Head coach Roger Gorayeb will rely heavily on his veteran holdovers Joyce Sta. Rita, libero Alyssa Eroa, Vira Guillema and Nikka Dalisay to carry the fight for the Lady Stags.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 3rd, 2018

Six standout local volleybelles of 2017

We’ve seen them shine this year whether in the collegiate stage, in the club leagues or even in the international scene. These six Pinay volleyball players took the sport’s limelight in the year that’s about to end.     DESIREE CHENG Desiree Cheng came into De La Salle University during the time bitter rival Ateneo de Manila University got the Lady Spikers’ number. From Seasons 76 to 77, Cheng saw her team fall prey to the might of the Lady Eagles in the UAAP Finals. Then redemption came in Season 78. Unfortunately, the 5-foot-8 spiker was forced to watch from the sidelines with an ACL tear as her crew reclaimed the crown. A year after, Cheng got her biggest break. DLSU lost most of its veteran core after Season 78 and needed another scoring option. Cheng heeded the call. Though Cheng struggled at the start of the eliminations, the hitter slowly got her groove back and delivered when DLSU needed offense in their sixth straight championship showdown against Ateneo. Cheng was the X-factor for the Ramil De Jesus-mentored squad during the series. Her contributions both on offense and floor defense played a huge part in the Lady Spikers’ series sweep of the Lady Eagles for the school’s 10th title. Cheng also helped F2 Logistics claim the Cargo Movers’ breakthrough Philippine Superliga Grand Prix title and a runner-up finish in the All-Filipino Conference.   ALYSSA VALDEZ Although Alyssa Valdez failed to claim a crown in the Premier Volleyball League this year and a continued title drought since 2016, the Phenom’s magic remains. She can still fill up game venues whenever she takes the court and 2017 proved as the former Queen Eagles’ biggest year in terms of her flourishing volleyball career. Valdez brought her talents abroad, landing a stint with 3BB Nakornnont in the Thai League and in the Thai-Denmark Superleague where her team finished third in both tournaments. After her appearance in Thailand, Valdez donned the Creamline jersey and led the Rebisco franchise to a bronze medal finish both in the PVL Reinforced and Open conferences. Valdez also had another tour of duty, playing for the national team in the AVC Asian Women’s Senior Volleyball Championship and the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The 24-year old hitter got another international gig when she was tapped by Attack Line to play in the Chinese-Taipei Volleyball League.          Outside volleyball, Valdez has a blooming relationship with basketball star Kiefer Ravena. If she’s not busy with her volleyball and other commitments, Valdez also drew attention as one of the newest member of the so-called PBA players’ WAGS (wives and girlfriends) cheering for Ravena and the NLEX Road Warriors.      DAWN MACANDILI She may be only 5-foot tall but Dawn Macandili stood alongside Asia’s volleyball giants this year. The De La Salle University libero was the catalyst in the Lady Spikers’ back-to-back UAAP championship run. Her pesky floor defense frustrated DLSU’s rivals while giving her teammates a good first ball to operate their lethal offense.  But her biggest showing was when she landed a spot in the national team that competed in the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship and in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games. A first-timer donning the national colors, Macandili did not disappoint as she earned the respect and admiration of Japanese coaches and trainers during the Nationals’ training camp in Japan. She performed even better when the PHI hosted the AVC Asian Seniors. Ms. Everywhere gave teams like Asian powerhouse Vietnam, Kazakhstan, South Korea and Thailand a hard time with her floor defense. All her efforts caught the eyes of the AVC tournament officials and she was rewarded with the historic 2nd Best Libero award. She made the final list of in the national team that participated in the SEA Games. Back in the local scene, Macandili helped F2 Logistics to runner-up finish in the PSL All-Filipino Conference and a breakthrough crown in the Grand Prix.    JAJA SANTIAGO Tall, powerful and versatile, Jaja Santiago is a force to reckon with.  At 6-foot-5, Santiago dominated the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference as she led the National University Lady Bulldogs to a perfect championship run. She also bagged the conference’s Most Valuable Player award. Though NU failed to make it in the Final Four of UAAP for the second straight year, Santiago’s effort for the Lady Bulldogs was rewarded with a third straight Best Attacker award to go with the Best Scorer and Best Blocker recognitions. In the PSL, Santiago was a consistent scorer for the Foton Tornadoes in the All-Filipino Conference and the Grand Prix. Under the tutelage of Serbian import Moro Branislav, Santiago became an even more dangerous and versatile player. Aside from her natural position as a middle blocker, she can now wreak havoc on both wings the puts her height advantage to good use. She made it into the national team that competed in the AVC Asian Seniors and SEA Games and was the Nationals’ scoring ace. Santiago received an offer from Thai powerhouse Bangkok Glass but declined the offer to play in her last year with the Lady Bulldogs.             KIM FAJARDO Setter Kim Fajardo left winning legacy when she played her swan song for DLSU. It took her a few months to decide to play her fifth year with the Lady Spikers. Leading a young crew after the departure of the core of the Season 78 championship squad, Fajardo faced a tough challenge in the Taft-based squad’s title-retention bid. But the Batanguena proved her worth as a leader and the skipper rallied the Lady Spikers back into the Finals in a sixth straight collision against bitter rival Ateneo. Fajardo’s composure carried DLSU in a tough Game 1 match and again in the five-set title-clincher to complete the Lady Spikers’ series sweep of the Lady Eagles. She earned a spot in the national team as a starting setter. Fajardo steered F2 Logistics to its first PSL Grand Prix crown bagged the conference’s Best Setter award. She helped the Cargo Movers to a runner-up finish in the All-Filipino Conference.     JOVIELYN PRADO Silent but deadly. Jovielyn Prado may not be the typical vocal leader but her presence inside the court is enough to rally the Arellano University Lady Chiefs to meet their goals. The outside hitter proved her worth to the Lady Chiefs when she led the Legarda-based squad back on the NCAA women’s volleyball throne. A year removed from the title, Arellano U turned to Prado to provide the spark the Lady Chiefs needed to make another shot at the crown. Consistent, efficient and effective, Prado delivered for the Obet Javier-mentored squad. Arellano U advanced in the stepladder semifinals and dethroned College of St. Benilde to set up a date with thrice-to-beat, three-time Most Valuable Player Grethcel Soltones-led San Sebastian College. Undaunted even with a great series disadvantage, Prado played her best three games of the season to power the Lady Chiefs to an impressive sweep of the Lady Stags. Prado continued her great performance in the PVL Reinforced and Open Conference playing for the Power Smashers. She then bannered the Lady Chiefs to a bronze medal finish in the Collegiate Conference at the expense of UAAP team Adamson University.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 28th, 2017

LOOK: NCAA Season 93 team rosters

Defending champion Arellano University will parade a veteran core when the Lady Chiefs begin their quest for a repeat title in the 93rd NCAA women’s volleyball tournament starting January 4 at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan. With key returnees in top hitter Jovielyn Prado, Regine Arocha, Mary Anne Esguerra and reliable middle Andrea Marzan, the Obet Javier-mentored squad remains to be a force to reckon with even after the departure of Rialen Saet and libero Eunice Galang. Arellano U will open its campaign on Jan. 4 against Mapua University at 1:30 p.m. after the San Sebastian College and Emilio Aguinaldo College tussle at 12:00 noon. The Lady Chiefs closed Season 92 with an 11-game winning streak including three in a row in the Finals against thrice-to-beat SSC-R to claim their second crown in three years. The Lady Stags of head coach Roger Gorayeb lost two scoring aces in three-time Most Valuable Player Grethcel Soltones and Kat Villegas, who both exhausted all their playing years, and will field the least number of players this season with only nine in their roster. Here’s the complete team rosters in the women’s and men’s divisions: WOMEN’S       MEN’S         --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 27th, 2017

Serena rarin’ to come back in Aussie tilt

New mum Serena Williams has accepted a place at the Australian Open and is “anticipated to return” to the tournament in January, less than five months after.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsDec 8th, 2017

Serena Williams entered for family-friendly Australian Open 2018

SYDNEY, Australia – New mom Serena Williams has accepted a place at the Australian Open and is "anticipated to return" to the tournament in January, less than five months after giving birth, organizers said Friday, December 8. The defending women's champion was among 98 of the 100 top women, and all ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsDec 8th, 2017

Promising signs from Bulls young guns

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com In time, Zach LaVine’s return, development and eventual career arc will determine to a large extent how successful the Bulls’ Draft Night trade of Jimmy Butler to Minnesota was. For now, and until LaVine suits up this season and beyond, his value to Chicago is strictly to be determined. The two-time NBA Slam Dunk champ is back in the practice gym in his recovery from left knee (anterior cruciate ligament) surgery. Playing 1-on-1 with teammates, working out with the G-League Windy City Bulls in Chicago’s northwest suburbs and improving his timing and his conditioning, LaVine is penciled in to make his season debut before the end of 2017. Meanwhile, though, the Bulls have two other pieces to show from the Butler deal: stretch-four forward Lauri Markkanen and point guard Kris Dunn. Both have offered glimpses of what they can do and how they might fit into the team’s long-term vision that someday won’t prioritize losing. Markkanen, the lanky Finn by way of the University of Arizona, is averaging 13.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and in 30 minutes. He’s putting up 7.2 three-point shots per game and hitting 31.7 percent. His 140 attempts from the arc ranked 14th in the NBA – more than Bradley Beal (126), more than Carmelo Anthony (125) – and Markkanen’s 48 makes are the most by any player in his first 20 games. Dunn, whose disappointing 2016-17 rookie season with Minnesota essentially has gotten a reset, was at 12 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 4.2 apg after having 19 points, five rebounds and five assists in Thursday night's (Friday, PHL time) loss at Denver. The 23-year-old from Providence is shooting 43.2 percent on three-pointers (43.2 percent)  and his steal percentage of 3.8 – an estimate of the percent of opponents’ possessions ending in Dunn steals – ranked No. 1 in the NBA. Their trajectories have been somewhat different so far in 2017-18: Markkanen has been consistent while fighting through a flu bug and some road weariness, while Dunn has played his best most recently. But they’ve both contributed in ways that, aside from the Bulls’ relentless losing, suggests brighter days and in time a positive verdict on that headline-grabbing, bit-spitting trade. Markkanen: Stays cool, likes cold, shoots hot It’s fair to say that the Bulls, when they acquired Markkanen as the No. 7 selection in the Draft last June, got a sleeper. No, literally. That’s about all the 20-year-old native of Vantaa, Finland was able to do after a hectic spring leading up to the draft followed by a tortuous summer at the Las Vegas Summer League and a key role for his home country’s national team in the FIBA Eurobasket 2017 tournament. Markkanen’s single season at Arizona not only acclimated him to the American game, it earned him all-American status and a taste of the NCAA tournament before the Wildcats lost to Xavier. In the Euro competition, he averaged 19.5 points and 5.7 rebounds before heading to Chicago for an early jump on training camp. “When he came over here, he was exhausted,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “The week before training camp was completely lost time – he needed to recharge his batteries. So, we really didn’t know what we had. He was still tired when we started camp. We didn’t throw him out there for all the drills, just as part of the process in getting his body back. “But then every time he stepped on the floor, he showed a little more.” First Markkanen demonstrated he would crack the rotation. Then – when forwards Nikola Mirotic (facial injuries) and Bobby Portis (suspension for the punch that caused them) rendered themselves unavailable two days before the season opener – Markkanen was thrust into the starting lineup. Butterflies? Rookie mistakes? Not so much. Markkanen looked almost unflappable in averaging 17.2 points and 9.3 rebounds through his first six appearances, with a high of 25 points at Miami and double-doubles against San Antonio and Atlanta. “We had to adjust our offense,” Hoiberg said, “and put in some new things to try to get him the ball in different spots on the floor, because of his versatility to score.” Justin Holiday was one of the teammates who learned quickly to get the ball more often to the tall blond guy. “He’s playing consistent, and that’s a very mature thing to do in this league,” Holiday said. “What’s maybe surprising is his confidence in shooting the ball. He’s not afraid to shoot it.” Said Markkanen, whose father Pekka lettered at Kansas before returning home to play professionally: “I’m expecting big things from myself. I think that’s what motivates me every day. Whatever I do, I’m not satisfied. So, I try to set higher goals every time I step on the court. Try to do things better. “It’s going to get harder, I know that. I’m trying to face it like any other job. Just go at it positively, fight through it, put the work in, and I think it will work itself out.” At 20 games and counting, Markkanen will soon blow by the 37 he played in college, and the workload probably has something to do with his recent production; in his five most recent games before Thursday (Friday, PHL time), he shot 25.4 percent, including 11-of-39 from the arc. He says he has adjusted from one game to the next – “I don’t want to give my scouting report, but I try to add something new and figure out what they’re going to throw at me,” he said. He even drew praise from the great LeBron James after hitting four three-pointers in the fourth quarter of a preseason game against the Cavaliers. Markkanen hasn’t been fooled by Chicago’s relatively balmy late-autumn weather and has to be one of the few NBA players to welcome winter’s chill (“I’m actually looking forward to snow”). He isn’t flinching from the Bulls’ task at hand, either, which looks longer and more laborious with each lopsided defeat. “I understand this part of a process,” said Markkanen, who would appear to be on his way to the Rising Stars Challenge game at All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. “We’ve got a young group. We’re having tough times. ... It’s about sticking together and having everyone know that. We can’t afford to not trust or not be a good teammate.” Dunn: Pushing a personal reset button Dunn’s young career was looking a little snakebit. He suffered a concussion in the first game he played for Minnesota in the 2016 Las Vegas Summer League. This time, he had to leave the Bulls’ Vegas entry early to attend to family matters. Then the point guard got hurt in a preseason game against Milwaukee Oct. 7 (Oct. 8, PHL time), winding up with an “open dislocation” of his left index finger. All those setbacks cost Dunn valuable learning time, as far as running first the Wolves’ and then the Bulls’ attacks. He never fully recovered from it last season, sputtering through a rookie season that fell far short of his and others’ expectations. His fellow Class of 2016 draftees had voted him the most likely to snag the Rookie of the Year award, but it went instead to Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, who’d been chosen in the second round 31 spots after Dunn. This time, Dunn was out of action until Chicago’s fifth regular season game. And the delay showed in his performances: 9.8 points per game, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 38.6 percent shooting in his first eight games. One Bulls insider said Dunn “had a lot going on in his head” from last season’s failures, even as he tried to get traction in Chicago. Said Holiday, 28, who went undrafted and bounced through five organizations in barely three years from 2013 to 2016: “When you’re young, man, everybody’s pushing. Who knows what was going on his head? He might have been trying to be perfect. Sometimes it takes time. It’s a big role. “But he has the confidence to do it, where last year maybe he didn’t have as much confidence. All you can really do is go out and play hard, and if it works out, it works out.” Over Dunn’s past seven games before Thursday (Friday, PHL time), he was a more effective, more efficient player: 13.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.0 apg, while averaging 2.1 steals and 27.7 minutes. He had made 9-of-15 three-pointers, compared to 6-of-21 to start the season. Already in the five weeks he’s been active, he has played about 30 percent of the total minutes he got in 78 appearances for Minnesota’s Tom Thibodeau. The Bulls have been 3.6 points better when he’s been on the floor, too. That’s not enough to tip outcomes, but keep in mind the Wolves were 2.6 points worse a year ago with Dunn in the game. He played probably his best NBA game Tuesday against Phoenix, scoring 24 points on 10 of 16 shooting with eight assists, four rebounds and four steals. If not for a couple of egregious turnovers among his four, he might have agreed with Hoiberg’s “terrific” assessment. That performance came 48 hours after Dunn had scored two points and missed all six of his field-goal attempts against Miami. Hoiberg sought him out and demanded that the second-year guard play more aggressively, and Dunn proved his coach right. “He called me out,” Dunn said. “When a coach calls you out, you try to play as hard as you can. I had to get through my mind, ‘Go out and play the way I used to play. With that aggression. On defense, on offense. Try to stay down in errors as much as I can and get everybody involved.’ “I want to be an elite point guard one day and I understand, the best point guards don’t make those killer turnovers. If I want to reach my goal, I have to get better each and every day in practice, watch film and, y’know, think a little smarter when you’re playing.” Some have suggested Boston’s Marcus Smart as a legitimate comparison for Dunn, given their defensive aptitudes and challenges both face when shooting from range. Dunn is a huge fan of Smart, but believes he can be a full-service, top-notch playmaker. Mostly, he finally looks comfortable with this reset to his NBA experience. “Individually for me, it is a reset,” Dunn said. “I say this is my first year because I didn’t get too many minutes and I didn’t play the right position in Minnesota. I was a two, a three, sometimes a one. But this is my first year of [regularly] playing the point guard. As a team, we don’t have Jimmy, we don’t have [Rajon] Rondo, we don’t have Dwyane Wade, so we’re all trying to figure it out. Everybody is trying to step up and come together as a unit.” With LaVine’s debut now weeks rather than months away, the Bulls – and their skeptical fans – will be able to more fully judge the yield from that Butler trade. Two out of three so far are giving glimmers of hope. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 1st, 2017

RP Blu Girls set sights on 2020 Tokyo Olympics

With the return of Softball in the upcoming 2020 Olympics, the Philippines is making a serious run to book a trip to Tokyo. The first step in qualifying for the 2020 Olympics is the 11th Asian Women Softball Championships next week in Taiwan where the RP Blu Girls will compete. Actually, not just compete. Our world no. 17 softball squad will go after a medal. However, it's not going to be easy though. Despite the Blu Girls being ranked fourth best in Asia, three Asian teams belong in the top 10 in the world. Japan is no. 1, China is no. 6, and Taipei is no. 9. All of them will also compete in the Taiwan tournament, not to mention the always-dangerous South Korea who are 26th in the world and fifth in Asia. Still, there is quiet confindence from the Blu Girls after a banner year. "Trying to look at it from the last Asian Games and the last tournaments that we have been playing, we have beaten top-10 teams. I think we can do it," head coach Venerando Dizer said. This year alone, the RP Blu Girls have scored impressive wins over world no. 3 Canada and world no. 4 Australia. The team also already beat Taipei twice. The Blue Girls will open the Asian Championships on November 28 against no. 1 Japan. "We're playing Japan right away, for me, I would rather play them right away so that at least from there, we can adjust to qualify for the playoffs," Dizer said. MISSION POSSIBLE: TOKYO OLYMPICS With the return of softball to the Summer Games, the primary goal for the Blu Girls is to nab one of the six spots available in the quadrennial showcase. And with a team that is described as the country's best in quite some time, the people behind the program are confident that the Blur Girls can make a serios run for it. "You can tell, that even from the 19-under level, our girls are getting ready to move up the world rankings. We are very, very happy to seee the potential of us being a Olympic-level team in the future," Amateur Softball Association of the Philippines (ASAPHIL) president Jean Henri Lhuillier said. "2020 is going to be tough with only six spots, but we're gonna try," he added. "That's the goal."   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 23rd, 2017