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UAAP Season 82: Ateneo tests rookie-laden DLSU in rivalry game opener

Defending champion Ateneo de Manila head coach Oliver Almadro doesn’t want to take archrival De La Salle University lightly despite the fact that the Lady Spikers will be parading a rookie-laden line-up this UAAP Season 82 women’s volleyball tournament. The second-year Lady Eagles mentor knows how dangerous DLSU is especially after surrendering the crown last year after a three-year hold of the throne. Almadro is also aware that the Lady Spikers have a crop of blue chip recruits. “Alam nyo, I don’t know why people are saying na maraming bago, maraming bago. But they’re blue chip recruits eh,” said Almadro. “Ibig sabihin, kahit mga bago, if they are expected to deliver, expected ‘yun.” So he expects nothing but a dogfight when his Lady Eagles battle the debuting Ramil De Jesus-mentored Lady Spikers on Saturday in Round 1 of the much-anticipated encounter at the MOA Arena. Game time is at 3:30 p.m. and it will air live on ABS-CBN S+A Channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD Channel 166, LIGA SkyCable Channel 86, LIGA HD SkyCable Channel 183, iWant and via livestream. Ateneo is coming into the game all pumped up after a morale-boosting straight sets, 25-13, 25-17, 25-23, demolition of University of the Philippines last Wednesday. Graduating hitter Kat Tolentino, who finished with 15 points last game, Jules Samonte and rookie Faith Nisperos, who debuted with 10 markers, are at the helm of the Lady Eagles attempt to seize the early solo lead. Helping the trio are returning Jho Maraguinot, who is expected to display a better showing after a quite four points in the opener, Ponggay Gaston, libero Dani Ravena and setter Jaja Maraguinot. Ateneo dropped all of its elimination games against DLSU last year. The Lady Spikers are sporting new faces this year led by 6-foot-2 middle Thea Gagate, 6-foot winger Leila Cruz and libero Justine Jazareno as support for holdovers Tin Tiamzon, Aduke Ogunsanya, CJ Saga, Jolina Dela Cruz and playmaker Michelle Cobb.      “They will not recruit kung di magaling. So you have to prepare and expect that those players will really deliver,” said Almadro of DLSU young guns.   Show your school spirit. Get official UAAP university licensed merchandise from www.uaapstore.com. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnMar 6th, 2020

Ateneo s Fab 5: The Fearless Underdogs of UAAP Volleyball

(This story was originally published on April 20, 2018) Newly-appointed head coach Roger Gorayeb looked at his line-up heading into UAAP Season 71. A champion mentor of NCAA powerhouse San Sebastian College - Recoletos, Gorayeb had in his hands a gargantuan task of rebuilding the Ateneo de Manila University women’s volleyball program. Just a few months before, Ronald Dulay, the mentor before him, landed a trio of blue chip recruits who were fresh from a successful stint in the Palarong Pambansa. Angeline "Dzi" Gervacio, Fille Saint Cainglet and Jamenea "Jem" Ferrer just joined the Katipunan-based squad. Gervacio and Cainglet were products of St. Scholastica's College in Manila while Ferrer was a gem from Hope Christian School under girl’s volleyball guru Jerry Yee. Looking at his 15-woman line-up with the season just a few months ahead, Gorayeb knew he needed to do something drastic. The roster just won’t do. Talking to then athletic director Ricky Palou and team manager Tony Boy Liao, the mentor told the team officials that he intended to cut five players from the list. One could just imagine the shock in their faces. “Nakita ko may line-up pero player-playeran lang yung ganoon bang tipo, 15 ata yun. Sabi ko ‘Magtatanggal ako ng lima then magre-recruit ako,’” he said. The three rookies were in. Middle Bea Pascual, Kara Acevedo and libero Steph Gabriel retained their spots. He needed more. “Sa mga tinira kong players, si Kara Acevedo sabi niya, ‘Coach mayroong player ang ICA (Immaculate Conception Academy) na gumraduate naka-exam na rito pasado.’ Sabi ko, ‘Sige papuntahin mo,’” said Gorayeb. It was Gretchen Ho. “Sa akin kasi ang talagang nagyaya sa akin si Coach Ron Dulay. Si Kara Acevedo teammate ko and she’s been recruited by Ateneo. So one summer wala akong magawa naki-train lang ako noon tapos nagustuhan nila ang laro ko and then fourth year noong graduate na ako I passed the ACET then niyayaya na nila ako,” Ho said. “Then nagbago ng coach na si Coach Roger and dun niya ako nakita.”   “Pagdating ko ng March (sa Ateneo) wala na akong way para maka-recruit pa. Ang nangyari yung tatlo accepted na kaagad. Si Gretchen tinanong ko sabi ko, ‘ano ba ang laro mo?’ Sabi niya the usual panggitna, tres,” Gorayeb recalled. “So sinubukan ko pero ang laro niya tres hindi quick. Siya panggitna pero hindi quicker na gusto ko saka yung height niya (maliit). Kaya lang si Gretchen takbo ng takbo, mahilig magtatakbo so sabi ko sige pwede na yan. Wala namang player na during that time. So kinuha ko si Gretchen.” Gorayeb just needed just one more. “Ngayon nagkaroon ng STCAA (Southern Tagalog Calabarzon athletic association) eh kulang pa ako ng isa, wala akong panggitna. Ang gitna ko during that time si Bea lang tapos si Gretchen so wala akong pamalit. So naisipan ko may nakita ako sa STCAA,” he said. He spotted a lanky player from Canossa Academy-Lipa, Aillysse Nacachi. “Sabi ko kay Sir Tony pagtyagaan ko na lang ito kahit hindi naman kalakasan at wala naman na rin akong choice na makapili kasi rush ang pagdating ko dyan. Nakiusap lang sila sa akin na magbuo ako ng team kasi si Ronald nag-resign,” said Gorayeb. Another freshman could’ve had ended up with Ateneo, Hope’s libero Melissa Gohing. But a few obstacles prevented her from fulfilling her promise to join Ferrer in Ateneo. She instead chose to join the ladies in green and white in Taft.    SOMETHING PROMISING December 7, 2008. Far Eastern University Gym. Excitement filled the air. Fans, mostly volleyball purists and some who just came to support their classmates or were just curious to see a new spectacle after the basketball season ended, slowly settled in their seats for the women’s division’s second game. It was Adamson University, the previous year’s runner-up, which just visited the turf of their arch nemesis and defending champion FEU, which was led by that era’s finest and most popular volleybelle Rachel Anne Daquis. Fans wanted to see if the Lady Falcons still had the same firepower they had the previous season with the loss of top setter Janet Serafica and power hitter Sang Laguilles. A rookie-laden Ateneo squad should be easy pickings with Angela Benting, rookie Pau Soriano and libero Lizlee Anne Gata in the roster. Besides the Lady Falcons got the Lady Eagles’ number. Or so they thought. “Naalala ko nu’ng time namin sinasabi sa amin ng seniors namin na, ‘Hay naku ang lakas ng Adamson, never kami nanalo dyan,’” Cainglet, now happily married to Taguig mayor Lino Cayetano and with three beautiful children, recalled.  But the Lady Eagles stunned Adamson in the opening set. The Lady Falcons took the next two frames. Ateneo stole the fourth.  “Ako naalala ko ano eh, parang alam namin na lahat kasi kami palaban. Nasa amin yun. Tapos binigyan kaming lahat ng chance to be in the first six so parang dream come true,” said Ho, now an ABS-CBN host. “Naalala ko rin na palaban kaming lahat kumbaga nothing to lose eh so ang ano namin, sumasabay kami sa laro and nu’ng nakita na namin na ‘Ay kaya pala natin ‘to guys. Kaya pala naming lumaban.’” Still, Adamson had the upper hand in experience. The Lady Falcons, used to pressure and were steady at crunch time, outlasted Ateneo.           The young Katipunan-based squad fell short, 25-22, 22-25, 15-25, 25-15, 8-15. But for the Fab 5, it was a loss that felt like a resounding victory. “Parang sobrang natutuwa kami and everybody in the crowd, kaya siguro kami natawag na Fab 5 kasi rookies kami pero kahit ganoon palaban kami,” said Ho. “Saka close game. Five sets yun.” However, it was the first of five five-set matches that Ateneo will drop that season including one in the second round against the Manilla Santos-bannered De La Salle University. “Pero ang problema di kami nananalo ng five sets. Parang ilan lang ang naipanalo namin na ganoon. Feeling ko na-overwhelm kami na ‘Uy nananalo tayo.’ May ganoong disbelief ng konti pero alam namin na may ibubuga kami,” said Ho. “Definitely, our rookie season was full of five-set matches. It was tough, we felt like we were so close, but still so far away. At some point, it gave us frustration also. We just couldn't figure out that time what is it that's still lacking because we couldn't win the five-set matches,” according to Nacachi. “People said, it was because the team was still so inexperienced. We still didn't have the tenacity unlike of those more matured teams. But we didn't take it as bad, it was a learning experience for us all at the end. We had to learn how to develop that finishing will to be able to win games like that in the future.” The Fab 5 finished their rookie season with a 6-8 slate at fifth spot.   ‘MAY MEDAL NA TAYO’ Gorayeb remembered on their second year the look on Pascual’s face in their last elimination game match against Adamson. Already wrapping up their first win over the Lady Falcons, Pascual was giddy. “Natatawa nga ako dyan kay Bea kasi papanalo na kami nu’n tapos sumesenyas na siya ng tres. Sabi ko, ‘Hoy anong ginagawa mo?’ Yun pala sobrang saya na niya kasi for the first time in 30 years magkaka-medal na sila,” he said. It was the most important match of the season for the Lady Eagles. With the Fab 5 already in their sophomore year, Ateneo was already making great strides. The Lady Eagles closed that season’s elims with five straight wins capped off with a victory over Adamson. Ateneo posted a 10-4 win-loss mark to enter the Final Four legitimately. “Ang nangyari kasi nu’ng time nila Charo (Soriano) kaya sila nakapasok sa semis kasi may nag-squeal na si (Jacq) Alarca di pala naka-enroll nu’n kaya na-forfeit mga laro ng La Salle,” said Gorayeb. The Fab 5 proved that they were not just a bunch of much-hyped up pretty faces. They backed it up with their skills on court. It didn’t matter that Ateneo were swept by eventual champion University of Sto. Tomas in the Final Four.      But the podium finish of Season 72 was short-lived. Adamson got its revenge in the last game of Season 73 elims, bumping off the Lady Eagles for a podium finish. The loss put Ateneo in a collision course with the twice-to-beat DLSU, who could’ve completed an elims sweep if not only for a forfeited match against University of the East after UAAP found out that Carmela Garbin and Clarisse Yeung participated in a ‘ligang labas’ while the season was onoing, in the Final Four. Ateneo gave the Lady Spikers a scare before succumbing in another heartbreaking five-set match. The Lady Eagles finished fourth but that lone semis game gave Ateneo and its maturing Fab 5 enough experience to dream for something big – A ticket into the Finals.      ‘HINOG NA KAYO’ The first three years saw the gradual improvement for Ateneo. But Season 74 proved to be the turning point for the Fab 5. A fresh new recruit from University of Sto. Tomas high school, who just completed a year of residency, came into picture and with the Fab 5 armed with years of experience, the Lady Eagles’ fate will forever be changed. Alyssa Valdez, a highly recruited open spiker just like Gervacio, Cainglet-Cayetano and Ferrer years back, gave renewed excitement for the Ateneo faithful. “Alyssa's joining with Ateneo was a great turning point for us. We needed as much support we can get, and Alyssa's entrance to the team was a great boost to the team's morale,” said Nacachi. “The girl is a powerhouse and we felt like with her presence, the team finally became solid.” “We were able to play around with the positions and the rotations, since we had different versatile open players who can also greatly play other roles,” she added. “We were also able to formulate a lot of plays and attacks because Alyssa can generally do all kinds; open, running, quick, name it all. She gave the team the power and the versatility that we previously lacked from the past seasons.” Social media was just gaining traction then but the Lady Eagles were already on the radar of volleyball purists through online forums. For the first time, Ateneo was considered a legitimate contender.   The Fab 5 proved it by winning 11 games in the elimination round, losing only to UST once and dropping two against the Lady Spikers. Valdez’s arrival gave Ferrer an even broader option on offense. It eased the scoring load off the shoulders of Cainglet and Gervacio, who was then moved to an opposite position. “I guess sakto lang din yung dating niya because by that time Kara Acevedo graduated so someone had to fill in her spot so coach Roger decided for me to move to utility or opposite,” said Gervacio. “And then sakto Alyssa naman could fill in the spot na other open spiker.” “So timing din na we had all the pieces put together at the right time,” she added. With a good performance in the elims despite missing a legit middle in Bea Pascual and the entry of Aerieal Patnongon barred by academic problems, Ateneo finished second and for the first-time was armed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semifinals. The Lady Eagles faced an experienced Tigresses side in the last stepladder semis stage. UST just came from a hard-fought four-set do-or-die match against FEU and were banking on their four-set win over Ateneo in the second round to force another sudden death. Ateneo’s date with destiny was sealed with a four-set win over the Tigresses, who then bid goodbye to Maika Ortiz and Judy Anne Caballejo. “Pinu-push na rin kami ni Coach Roger noon eh, ‘Hinog na kayo ngayon. Kasi dalawang taon na lang, kailangan makapasok na kayo sa Finals,’” said Ho. “Somehow senior na rin kami,” added Cainglet.  “Season 74 was really the target season for us to be in the finals and target even to win the championship,” according to Nacachi. “During this time, we were already thinking we could not afford to not go in the finals.” “So it was with our mindset and our level of commitment that we were able to finally reach our goal of reaching the finals,” she added. “We had enough experience that time already, and it was really time for us to show the level of game maturity the team had obtained from the past seasons.” But then they had to face an unbeaten team. Unscathed in 14 games, De La Salle University was poised to complete a perfect season. The Lady Eagles spoiled it. Ferrer outplayed DLSU setter Mika Esperanza, 57-42, in excellent sets as Ateneo handed the Lady Spikers its first loss after 25 straight victories in a come-from-behind 23-25, 28-26, 25-23, 25-17, Finals opener win. Witnessed by 3,002 spectators inside the then The Arena in San Juan, all of the Fab 5 produced points. Cainglet had 19 behind Valdez’s 24, Gervacio scored 12, Ho had 10, Nacachi finished with five while Ferrer had one. Gorayeb made a big gambit and it worked. “Dahil sa wala kong panggitna, yung laro namin ng La Salle, ginawa kong quicker si Alyssa. Kasi si Alyssa nakakapalo. Nagulat si Ramil (de Jesus) dun.” It was a big win. A huge upset. Unfortunately, Ateneo needed to win two more.  DLSU held a thrice-to-beat advantage.   THAT SWAG After Ateneo made a miracle in Game One, fans began to feel a new rivalry born. The attendance spiked. From just 3,000 spectators, the gate attendance more than doubled its size. The interest was there. Fans of traditional powers began to notice the Lady Eagles as a rising team. For the first time, a squad with no previous championship experience except for a title during the Marcos era in a different collegiate league, made a giant jolt. Everybody wanted to see what these girls would do next.    The Lady Eagles, still high on adrenaline after their Game 1 upset, took the opening set in Game 2. But just like in their opener, a well-experienced DLSU squad adjusted to take the next three frames to move a step closer to a repeat crown. With then Rookie of the Year Ara Galang, Season Most Valuable Player Aby Marano, an intimidating Michele Gumabao and a very efficient Finals MVP Cha Cruz teaming up for the kill, the Lady Spikers ripped Ateneo apart in Game 3 in straight sets, 25-16, 25-22, 25-13. “Sabi nga ni Dzi na nadyan na lahat eh. So I guess noong Season 74 nandoon na pero may kulang pa rin,” said Ho. “I guess we we’re able to make it to the Finals pero wala pa kaming championship experience.” Ferrer agreed. "Siguro ang kulang yung championship experience kasi nasa La Salle na ‘yun eh. Ilang years na silang nagpa-finals, nag-champion and for Ateneo doon pa lang namin sinimulan," said the three-time Best Setter. Lacking championship experience is one thing, but Ateneo during that time wasn’t ready for DLSU’s most feared weapon: the Lady Spikers’ swag.  “They have that swag,” said Gervacio. “Everyone knows about it naman. It’s really Coach Ramil’s style talaga kasi as I remember when we were first year, four out of six of the players inside the court were rookies and even if we go against the powerhouses UST, FEU, Adamson, hindi sila yung nakikita nyo na kapag championship na rivalry, na swag, angas, stare down. Pero La Salle talaga kahit sino ang kalaban nila they’ll bring that attitude inside the court.” That Finals series cemented a new rivalry that will become one of the most celebrated in the sport. “I think it also helped that Ateneo-La Salle basketball didn’t face also,” said Gervacio. “Siyempre nandoon ang hunger for the rivalry eh and timely din na its been Ateneo-La Salle na rin sa volleyball.”   CLOSING A CHAPTER The Fab 5 were now in their fifth and last year. They wanted to leave a winning legacy. The pieces were already there. Gorayeb had at his disposal five seniors, a rising star in Valdez, a sophomore middle in Amy Ahomiro, a versatile Ella De Jesus, a steady libero in Denden Lazaro and a new kind of weapon – a massive crowd that can turn any venue into a sea of blue.              As expected, the second installment of the Ateneo-DLSU rivalry was set into place. Both sweeping their semis opponents. The Lady Spikers crushed National University while the Lady Eagles shot down Adamson. Game One was a shocker. DLSU heading into the Finals are on a 14-game roll but were stunned in the first two sets with Ateneo stepping on the gas. But a string of miscues, mostly from the service line, did the Lady Eagles in as they allowed the Lady Spikers to force a decider. DLSU, smelling blood, punished Ateneo to eke out a 20-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-6, victory inside the Big Dome witnesses by 17,342-strong gate attendance. Then the series transferred to a newly-built, state-of-the-art Mall of Asia Arena that drew a crowd of 18,799. The first two frames were frustrating for the Lady Eagles.   Ateneo came back to life in the third set to gain a 9-5 lead. But DLSU easily erased it with Ateneo crumbling under pressure. The Lady Spikers were on an onslaught. Sophomore Galang pushed DLSU at matchpoint with a cold-blooded ace that went in a few inches from the baseline. The score, 24-16. It was a tense moment for the Fab 5. A long rally ensued in the next play. Gervacio, with all her might pounded a kill. Her hand making a great contact on the ball off Ferrer’s backset.     Smack! The ball ricocheted off the hands of DLSU’s Wensh Tiu before falling on the same landing area of Gervacio, who tried to dive for a dig together with Lazaro. DLSU swept Ateneo, 25-23, 25-20, 25-16. Game over.          “Kahit hindi kami nanalo alam naming ibinigay namin ang lahat namin, all-out talaga kaya wala kaming pagsisisi,” said Ho. It was the end of the Fab 5 era, but they left more than what any of them could have imagined. "I remember so many people or fans telling me that they started really watching UAAP Volleyball because of our batch. And that is really touching and fulfilling to know. Knowing that you were able to leave an impact like that to people. We were not able to bring even a single championship to our school, Ateneo, but we were able to touch a lot of people's hearts despite that," Nacachi shared. The Fab 5 closed a colorful chapter of Ateneo volleyball in tears. They were there during the Lady Eagles’ birth pains. They labored. They shed tears, blood and sweat. They laid the foundation for something big. The Fab 5 planted the seeds that would eventually bear fruit and would change the course of Ateneo women’s volleyball program forever. Glory didn’t happen during their time. It started in theirs.    Amidst the roar of the crowd, the falling confetti, banging of drums and the echoing chant of ‘Animo La Salle’ from the sea of green, the Fab 5 hugged each other tight. They found comfort in each other. It was their time to say goodbye. For those who remained – Valdez, Lazaro, Ahomiro, De Jesus – the defeat added fuel to their already blazing desire to bring glory for the blue and white. They were the next in line, heirs to an unfinished business. WATCH: FAB 5 Reunion Part 1 and Part 2 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2020

ON THIS DAY: Tigresses end 8-year Finals stint wait

The packed Mall of Asia Arena rocked as University of Sto. Tomas rookie Eya Laure hammered the final blow that toppled the three-year dynasty of De La Salle University.     Supporters of the Tigresses went wild as the referees blew the final whistle signaling the end of the Espana-based squad’s eight long years of waiting to step back into the championship round. Exactly a year ago, UST booked a trip to the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball Finals.    The duel went the full five sets with the Tigresses walking away with a 25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 23-25, 15-10, victory behind the duo of Laure and then graduating Queen Tigress Sisi Rondina. That match gave fans a feel of the classic rivalry between the two proud schools. Prior to their Final Four meeting, the Lady Spikers and Tigresses squared off four days before to dispute the twice-to-beat advantage after finishing the elimination round tied at 10-4.      UST defeated DLSU in four sets in the playoff behind Rondina’s 29-point explosion.    The Tigresses, who were looking to avenge their Season 77 semis defeat at the hands of DLSU, came into Final Four riding the crest of their five-game winning streak. The Lady Spikers, on the other hand, were on a two-game slump which started with their stinging five-set loss to Far Eastern University to close the elimination round that dragged DLSU into a playoff for the no. 2 spot in the semis. UST was brimming with confidence in the Final Four match. Laure and Rondina found their mark early, punishing the Lady Spikers defense with their missiles while Caitlin Viray and KC Galdones kept DLSU attackers at bay with great net defense. The first two sets were easy picking for UST. Then the Lady Spikers fought back. DLSU forced a deciding set after pulling away from a close 18-17 lead to a 23-19 advantage capped by a Des Cheng crosscourt hit. Viray scored back-to-back points for UST to trim down its deficit to 23-21 but committed a service error in the next play. Laure saved two set points but the Tigresses were whistled for a net touch to end the fourth set. The Lady Spikers took advantage of UST’s 13 errors in the third set to escape a sweep. DLSU came back from a 11-15 down in the third frame with six unanswered points for a 17-15 advantage. The Lady Spikers widened their cushion to 24-19, Laure saved a set point before Cheng sealed the frame to set up a mad dash to the finish. In the final set, the Tigresses raced to a 10-5 lead before DLSU made a final push to cut its deficit to 11-10 off an Aduke Ogunsanya attack after an overreception by UST. Tigresses setter Alin Bicar scored a kill on the next play followed by a service ace before Laure's back-to-back hits to send UST back in the Finals for the first time since Season 73 when the Espana-based squad finished as bridesmaid to the Lady Spikers. UST ended DLSU’s 10-year Finals run and denied the Lady Spikers a four-peat for the third time in two decades. The Tigresses challenged Ateneo de Manila University in the Finals. UST won the series opener, but came up short in the next two games as the Lady Eagles claimed their third title overall.   ---          Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2020

WHAT IF Marck Espejo played for DLSU?

We all know what Marck Espejo brought to Ateneo when he donned the Blue Eagles jersey in the UAAP. He led the blue and white to three straight titles in five consecutive Finals appearances in indoor volleyball and captured Ateneo’s first and so far lone championship in beach volleyball. As a player, Espejo achieved a feat difficult to surpass if not replicate. A Rookie of the Year award, five straight Most Valuable Player honors aside from other individual accolades. The Marikina pride even registered the league’s most points in a game with 55 during his last tour of duty with the Blue Eagles in Season 80. Espejo’s impact left a lasting imprint not only to the Blue Eagles but also to the entire league. Arguably, his persona could even also be attributed to the renewed popularity of men’s volleyball in the country which for years failed to bask in the same limelight enjoyed by women’s play. Indeed, Ateneo found a precious gem in Espejo. But what if Espejo decided to take his talents to a different school? Let’s say, De La Salle University. After all the green and white was actually one of Espejo’s options heading into college. [Related story: DID YOU KNOW? Marck Espejo almost played for DLSU] If Espejo played for the Green Spikers, he would definitely be a game changer. The Ateneo-National University championship rivalry wouldn’t have happened. Instead, it would’ve been the Bulldogs and Green Spikers duking it out for the crown during Espejo’s UAAP stint.      “Kung sa amin siya naglaro panigurado malaki ‘yung impact sa team namin kasi alam naman natin si Marck malakas talaga siya kahit buong team kaya niyang dalhin,” former DLSU setter and now assistant coach Geuel Asia told ABS-CBN Sports. Asia, who played for the Green Spikers from Season 75 to Season 79, added that he’s very familiar with Espejo's game as they were teammates when the National Capital Region ruled the 2012 Palarong Pambansa in Lingayen, Pangasinan.       “So malakas ang impact niya sa DLSU kung sakali. Power and mind maglaro si Marck so malaki ang matutulong niya sa DLSU,” said the former national team playmaker and Espejo's Cignal HD Spikers teammate. "Fit din siya sa system. Kahit na anong sistema aayon sa kanya, magiging comfortable siya."  In fact, with him on board DLSU in Season 76, the Green Spikers might have even gotten a trip to the Final Four. The Green Spikers, who finished third n Season 75, were eliminated by Adamson University in the playoff for no. 4 spot the following season.  Imagine Espejo adding more firepower to DLSU, which already had Season 75 MVP Red Christensen, Raymark Woo, Aaron Calderon, Ralph Calasin and Philip Cerveza. “Sobrang lakas talaga kung nangyari ‘yung ganun. Kasi yun din time na yun malakas si Woo eh,” said Asia. With Espejo, who was second in scoring in his rookie year and was in the top 10 in spiking, blocking, service and digs, DLSU might not even need to go to the playoff for a semis spot. Heck, the Green Spikers might even land at no. 2 - just like how Espejo led Ateneo into the Finals in Season 76 to face NU – considering that Christensen, Woo and Cerveza that year were consistently producing big numbers and contributing well on defense.      Of course, that team would still find it difficult to surpass the powerhouse Peter Torres-led Bulldogs in the championship. But at least that would’ve given DLSU the much-needed championship experience. Let’s say Woo didn’t suffer a knee injury during the pre-season while playing in a ligang labas that forced him to sit out  year, then DLSU would have remained a solid contender in Season 77. There might even have been the possibility that the Green Spikers ended a decade-long title-drought that year as they would have been parading an experienced and solid lineup composed of Espejo, Woo, setters Brendon Santos and Asia, libero Jopet Movido, Calderon, Christensen, Mike Frey, Arjay Onia, Cris Dumago and Calasin. The possibility of DLSU winning another title or two in the next three seasons with Espejo at the helm might not be far from reality.    But then of course Season 80 would be a different story. That year the Green Spikers would’ve parted ways with most of its veterans leaving Espejo, Onia, Dumago and Frey leading a young team piloted by third year setter Wayne Marco.    Even if DLSU did manage to crawl its way back into the Finals in Espejo’s last year, it would be extremely difficult to hurdle the Bulldogs parading a tall and very talented crew led by ace hitter Bryan Bagunas, Kim Malabunga, Madzlan Gampong, James Natividad, Francis Saura, setter Kim Dayandante and libero Ricky Marcos.    But then again, a DLSU squad bannered by Espejo in the UAAP would have definitely been a sight to behold. Too bad we could only imagine the what ifs.   ---    Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 19th, 2020

What if the Tigresses fielded a complete, healthy lineup in Season 81 Finals?

University of Sto. Tomas came close to ending a nine-year title drought in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament. The Tigresses dominated Ateneo de Manila University in the best-of-three Season 81 Finals series opener in straight sets – their first win over the Lady Eagles after 15 straight head-to-head losses. It was a shocker. UST gave the veteran-laden and battle-tested Ateneo squad a 25-17, 25-16, 25-20, drubbing.    In Game 2, UST started off on a wrong foot but was quick to recover in a lopsided second set win. Then, rookie Eya Laure suffered a left ankle sprain. Although the Season 81 Rookie of the Year returned to finish the game, Laure already lost the same explosiveness she had as the Tigresses yielded the match in four sets. Ateneo finished off UST in straight sets in the series decider for their third title overall. But the question remains for the UST faithful: What if the Tigresses had a healthy roster in the Finals series? Before its fateful Game 2 loss, UST was on a seven-game winning streak. The Tigresses were able to pull off an amazing run despite missing sophomore Fil-Italian Milena Alessandrini to a knee injury that abruptly ended her season.           Players like KC Galdones, Caitlin Viray and Ysa Jimenez stepped up to help Rondina and Laure on offense with Alessandrini sidelined. Against Ateneo, which returned to the Finals after falling short of a seventh straight championship stint in Season 80, in the two schools' first-ever title showdown the Tigresses needed the presence of Alessandrini. The Season 80 RoY averaged 15.6 points per game before going down with a torn partial anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear and grade 3 sprain of the MCL (medial collateral ligament) and LCL (lateral collateral ligament) in the second set of UST’s elimination round clash with Far Eastern University. Alessandrini would’ve given UST an extra scoring option aside from Rondina and Laure. At 6-foot-2, Alessandrini would’ve also been a great help at the net and would've posted as a challenge to Ateneo’s imposing middles in Bea de Leon and Maddie Madayag. Another big what if for UST: What if Laure didn’t accidentally land on Kat Tolentino’s foot at the start of the third set in Game 2? In Game 1, Laure finished with 11 points. She had 10 markers in Game 2, but had to bleed for points in the last two sets while playing through pain. Laure also had 10 markers in the series decider, but she was obviously not playing on the same level that she had during the Tigresses' seven-game win streak.    Of course, the Season 81 Finals turned out to be a thrilling and memorable one even with UST bitten by the injury bug. But again, what if the Tigresses came in healthy and in full force?   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2020

CAMPEONE: Year of the Tiger (2010)

(This story was originally published on May 09, 2019) University of Sto. Tomas head coach Shaq delos Santos looked at his squad inside the dugout of The Arena in San Juan one last time. It was a cool Saturday afternoon. He took a glimpse at his graduating hitter Angge Tabaquero, who was all pumped up, but was feeling under the weather and could barely speak because of a sore throat. Delos Santos then shifted his eyes towards fourth-year team captain Aiza Maizo, Maika Ortiz, libero Jessica Curato, then to his prized rookies Dindin Santiago and Maru Banaticla. From their closed locker room, the Tigresses could hear the drums outside and felt the vibration that followed. The weekend crowd packed the venue in a sea of yellow and green. Excitement filled the air. It was electric. Less than an hour before, coach Emil Lontoc celebrated the Tigers’ conquest of Far Eastern University to complete a three-peat in the men's division. With his eyes closed, Delos Santos murmured one last prayer. Then there was a soft tap on their dugout door. It was time to march to the court for the official warm-up for Game 2 of the UAAP Season 72 women’s volleyball tournament.   THE YOUNG AND THE BOLD Delos Santos knew that they’re in for ride in Season 72.   They prided themselves with three pre-season titles, but those conquests meant nothing when it comes to their mother league. “Before mag-start (ang season), for me, hindi ko napi-feel na magtsa-champion agad kami,” said Delos Santos. “Kasi ang adjustment kailangan makita mo muna ang lahat ng naglalaro. So depende pa rin sa nilalaro ng every team na makakalaban mo.” And besides, the mentor will be navigating with a young crew, mostly in their early collegiate careers save for Maizo and returning Tabaquero, two of the remaining heroes of UST’s Season 69 championship run. Maizo was named team captain while Tabaquero, who skipped Season 71 for personal reasons, brought in the needed veteran presence to guide the squad. “Ako personally ang mindset ko sobrang hungry lang rin ako personally and I think si Aiza rin kasi halos pa-exit na rin siya nun,” said Tabaquero. “Ako sobrang gusto ko lang for myself na maka-graduate sa UAAP on a high note.” “On a high lang ako nun kumbaga, ‘Last playing year ko na ‘to wala na akong balikan pa, ibubuhos ko na lahat,’ she added. “Plus the fact na hindi ako nakapaglaro noong Season 71 dagdag gutom sa akin ‘yun.” But then again, the Tigresses remained relatively young. Dimaculangan was just in her third year, her first two saw the bitter memory of losing the title in the semifinals at the hands of the Rachel Anne Daquis-led Far Eastern University and then another Final Four heartache against the same tormentors the following year. Ortiz, Hannah Mance and Curato barely had enough experience on them so did Judy Ann Caballejo.   Then there were the young bloods. UST got a pair of blue-chip recruits in a small but high-flying power-hitter in Banaticla and a lanky 6-footer Santiago.   The Tigresses were parading a decent squad, but not a super team that they had before with Mary Jean Balse and Venus Bernal.       “Nagkaroon kami ng mga rookies noon,” said Dimaculangan. “Nu’ng time na ‘yun kumpiyansa naman ako sa team kasi bakit ka pa maghahanap ng mga wala o bakit ka pa hahanap ng mga naka-graduate na? So kung ano na lang ang meron kami siguro doon na lang.” Delos Santos, himself, was just on his second year as head coach after taking the reins from legendary mentor August Sta. Maria, who suffered a stroke in 2008. Expectations were high from the UST faithful. For the Tigresses, they just have to deliver.   STRUGGLE WITHIN The Tigresses began the season with an early litmus test. Their first game: against the defending champions De La Salle University Lady Spikers. UST faced a squad assembled to build a dynasty. DLSU was denied of a four-peat three years ago when the league suspended the school in Season 69 because of an eligibility issue with its men’s basketball team. In Season 70, the Lady Spikers were forced to forfeit games because of another eligibility issue with Jacq Alarca. The following year, in Manilla Santos’ final year, DLSU reclaimed the throne. Now, looking to for a repeat, the Lady Spikers just need to break the will of one of their threats. DLSU paraded a formidable team centered on its ‘Big Three’ in Alarca, skipper Paneng Mercado, daughter of Asia’s Sprint Queen Lydia De Vega-Mercado, and versatile hitter Cha Cruz. Then there’s the great wall of Michele Gumabao and rookies Aby Marano and Joanne Siy, who would eventually win the Rookie of the Year and Best Blocker awards. UST was facing a nightmare. But the Tigresses were undaunted. They clung on the confidence of bringing down the same giant they slew in the UniGames championship before the start of the season. With guns blazing and adrenaline in their veins, the Tigresses were able to control the match as they led, 2-1. Then comes their Achilles’ heel. UST was a determined team, but the Lady Spikers had in them the championship experience, the veteran composure of a battle-tested squad. The Tigresses had no answer to that. DLSU walked away with a 20-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-22, 15-11, victory to start its amazing elimination round winning streak. UST recovered in the next three games, walking past University of the Philippines, a rebuilding FEU, and cellar-dwellers National University. Then came another big challenge. The Tigresses collided with a feisty young team in Ateneo de Manila University bannered by a hyped Fab Five of sophomores Gretchen Ho, Dzi Gervacio, Fille Cainglet, setter Jem Ferrer and A Nacachi. The result was a shocker: the Lady Eagles upset the Tigresses. It may not show inside the court, but the Tigresses were struggling from the inside.   Delos Santos admitted that being a Tigress under his watch was not for the faint of heart. His relationship with the players was not smooth. He was a blacksmith trying to sharpen a deadly weapon. He needed to put his players into the blazing fire of his Spartan-like training, hammer them into shape and sharpen them into a weapon ready for brutal war.       “Napaka-strict ko kaya medyo ano sila sa akin pero at the end of the day na-realize rin nila na ang lahat ng sinasalihan naming tournament, lahat ng paghihirap namin, kapag naglalaro kami talagang quality,” he said. “’Yung pinaghirapan namin talagang nilalabas namin sa game.” Dimaculangan recalled that that season was marred with conflicts within the team. “’Yung year na 'yun ang dami talagang pinagdaanan. Ang daming naging issues,” she said declining to divulge what the problems were. “Lahat kami takot sa kanya (Delos Santos). Tapos my time din na feeling namin nabe-burnout na kami.” “Baliktad nga eh kasi kung kailan ang dami naming issue doon pa namin nasabi na ‘Ay kailangan nating mag-champion.’ Ganoon ang feeling namin,” Dimaculangan added. Tabaquero would simply describe that Tigresses team as ‘shaky’. “On the rocks ang team and noon may internal issues din,” she revealed. “Medyo magulo siya pero as players, ‘Kung may mangyari man dyan, labas na sa volleyball ‘yan. Kung ano ang pini-perform natin maglaro tayo ng maayos.’ Siguro yun na lang ang tumatakbo sa isip namin.” Whatever the issues were inside their team, the Tigresses were able to put them aside as they made an amazing run to close the eliminations. “Nagulat kami kasi sobrang nakasabay ang mga bata,” said Tabaquero. “Kami ni Aiza halos ang nag-lead sa team na ‘yun pero kasi experienced na ang mga bata na ‘yun kasi coming from UST program sila eh.” “So medyo kumbaga ang pinanggalingan nilang team mataas din so I guess doon na lang din sila humugot from their experience sa high school. Nadala na lang din siguro pagdating nila,” she added.   ENTERING THE END GAME Valentine’s Day. With most of the country looking forward to celebrate that special Sunday, the Tigresses were preparing for something bigger. It was their most-awaited rematch with the Lady Spikers, who heading into that game were already ravaging the league with 13 straight victories. One win and DLSU will enter the Finals outright armed with a thrice-to-beat advantage.   The Tigresses didn’t allow that. UST prevented a Lady Spikers elims sweep by slipping past DLSU in a thrilling five-setter. The Tigresses avoided a stepladder semifinals. UST ended the elims with a nine-game winning streak and second-best 12-2 win-loss record. From there everything changed. “Kasi nakuha nila (ang panalo) sa first round then February 14 tinalo namin sila so dun tumaas ang kumpiyansa namin na ‘Ah kaya namin itong La Salle,’” said Tabaquero. The Tigresses came in the Final Four armed with a twice-to-beat advantage against Ateneo. They split their elims head-to-head but now UST wanted to settle an old score. It was Maizo and Tabaquero who did most of the damage in the Final Four as the Tigresses crushed the Lady Eagles, 25-12, 25-23, 25-20, all while playing without starting libero Curato, who was out because of typhoid fever. “I guess kung ikaw mayroon kang chance na makapasok sa championship siguro ibibigay mo ang lahat. Laban kung laban,” said Tabaquero. “’Yun talaga ang mentalidad namin nu’ng time na yun. ‘Yun ang nag-push sa amin na, ‘For championship ito, ibibigay namin ang lahat 110%.’” Earlier that playdate, the Lady Spikers took the other Finals berth after booting out Adamson University, 16-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-22.         "EH ANO NGAYON KUNG DEFENDING CHAMPION KAYO?" Maizo and Tabaquero were UST’s contrasting leaders. They're yin and yang. Maizo was a silent operator. She would rather let her work do the talking. Tabaquero was from a different world. She will get under your skin, play with your head and she was just plain nasty. “Season 69 pa lang salbahe na ako maglaro,” she admitted. “Dun lumabas ‘yung moniker ko na ‘Pamewang Queen’. Sobrang intense lang din ng game namin ng FEU nun. Parang sobrang thrashtalkan. Hindi mo man makita on-cam pero doon pa lang talagang may verbal.” She’s no different in Season 72. “Hindi naman sa mayabang ako pero nasa utak ko nu’ng time na yun, ‘Ay kaya namin kayo kasi tinalo namin kayo nu’ng eliminations,’” Tabaquero continued.  “Doon ako humugot ng lakas na, ‘hindi tayo papatalo rito.’ Sobrang inspired lang din siguro akong maglaro noon kasi ang daming tao nun. Grabe puno itong San Juan Arena,” she recalled.    Facing DLSU, Tabaquero knew they can rip the crown off the Lady Spikers’ heads. “Ako personally, ‘Eh ano ngayon kung defending champion kayo?” she said. It was 2010 and UST just needed to look at the Chinese calendar for an inspiration.    “Year of the Tiger yun, sumakto,” said Dimaculangan. “Iba ang kompiyansa namin na parang amin ‘to.” The Tigresses could see the stars aligning for them, the opportunity was there. Then came the best-of-three series opener. Delos Santos was not new to the Finals. He worked as Sta. Maria’s deputy before. But this was his biggest challenge. His shining moment. Looking back, he felt that Sta. Maria molded him for this situation. “Before nakakuha rin kami ng isa pang championship eh. Sina Bernal, Balse pero si Coach August ang head coach pa nun that time,” he said. “Ang ginawa niya that time sobrang gusto niyang mag-grow ako. Noong Finals namin against FEU, umalis siya. Hindi siya nagpunta ng game tapos nung mag-start na ang game hinahanap ko siya,” Delos Santos continued. “Tinawagan ko siya, sabi ko, ‘Boss nasaan ka?’ Nasa norte siya eh parteng norte." "Sabi ko, ‘boss nasaan ka?’ Sabi niya, ‘kayang-kaya mo na ‘yan. Ikaw ng bahala dyan,’” he said. “’Yung time na yun doon ko na-feel na grabe ang tiwala niya sa akin.” Against a taller Lady Spikers side, Delos Santos needed just one key to success: speed. “I think that time sobrang lucky ko rin kasi ang mga players ko. Yun nga sina Rhea na, sina Tabaquero, sina Aiza. So that time yung system na gusto naming mangyari, more on lalo na kailangang maging speedy kami. Mabilis kami, nakuha namin that time. Siguro yun ang naging key,” he said. “Kasi knowing La Salle ang no. 1 weapon nila is blocking eh. Bukod dun sa service nila na napakabigat, yung blocking. Mayroon silang malalaking players and ang ganda lagi ng line-up nila,” Delos Santos said. As the battle ensued, Delos Santos felt that they had the upper hand. “I think nu’ng time na ‘yun medyo na-feel ko na makukuha namin,” he said. “That time na naglaro na kami sabi ko, sa galawan na nangyayari nakuha namin yung magandang diskarte.” And that strategy was to exploit the height disadvantage of DLSU setter Kaye Martinez. For Delos Santos the best way to stop the Lady Spikers’ deadly arrows was to break their bow.  “That time malalaki sila pero meron silang maliit na setter. Maliit ang setter nila so more on dun kami nagsi-set play ng nagsi-set play,” he said. “Nagkaroon din kami ng magandang receive and then si Rhea nabibigay niya ng maayos sa mga spikers.”  It was shocker. UST recovered from a set down to beat DLSU, 24-26, 25-23, 25-16, 25-21.   For the first time in Season 72, the Taft-based squad got its back against the wall.   SHAQ THE WORLD The Tigresses were on a high as they arrived at the game venue in the last weekend of February just three days after shocking the Lady Spikers in the series opener.     Entering the venue, the Tigresses were greeted by a huge crowd of UST faithful, all hoping for the clincher.  Tabaquero was feeling ill that day. “Naalala ko may sakit ako nu’ng Game 2. Wala akong boses nun,” said the senior, who skipped Thursday’s practice to rest. But Tabaquero was determined to play one last time, give her team the firepower and angst it needed, to finish her collegiate career on top.   “Wala ng sakit-sakit, di pwedeng may sakit. Di ko na siya nararamdaman. Minsan napapagod pero wala kailangang magsakripisyo. Saka yung adrenaline ko sobrang taas nun,” said Tabaquero. As the Tigresses trooped to the court for the warm-up, they were showered by loud cheers from the UST fans. “Go USTe! Go USTe!” echoed inside the arena like a rolling thunder signaling the arrival of a storm. A serenade for conquering heroes. There was a huge banner that read: ‘Kami po ang University of Sto. Tomas.’ It added fuel to the Tigresses’ burning desire to reclaim the throne. The squad came into the venue brimming with confidence but with their supporters egging them on even before the opening serve, the Tigresses felt invincible. They were. UST dismantled the confused Lady Spikers in the first two sets, dominating DLSU with sharp angled attacks and frustrating its blockers. Defensively, the Tigresses were punishing DLSU’s attackers. “Dumipensa lang talaga kami noon saka nagkaroon kami ng first ball. ‘Yun talaga ang edge namin nun,” said Dimaculangan. “Kumbaga parang hindi ako masyadong nahirapang dumiskarte kasi alam kong darating sa akin ang bola.” The Lady Spikers’ defense was also in disarray. Even DLSU’s celebrated libero Mel Gohing, the rookie of the year the season before, was already struggling to keep up with the Lady Spikers’ net defense collapsing. “Yung mga spikers ko ang gagaling din dumiskarte and alam din nila kung ano ang gagawin nila sa bolang ibinibigay ko sa kanila,” added Dimaculangan. The Tigresses were already smelling blood.   But the Lady Spikers regrouped in the third as hitters Cruz and Mercado’s hits found their mark. Gumabao, Siy and Maarano were holding their own. DLSU took the third frame in dominating fashion. It may have turned the tides around for the Lady Spikers. It didn’t.      DLSU built an early five-point cushion in the fourth frame, but the Tigresses raced to a 16-11 lead before Gumabao stopped the bleeding with a crosscourt hit.  Maizo then landed an off speed hit over blockers Siy and Martinez, then the lefty again scored another heady off speed this time over Alarca for an 18-12 lead. Then came the deluge of errors by DLSU. The Lady Spikers crowd went quiet in the pivotal run of the Tigresses. A kill block by Ortiz put UST at championship point, 24-13, as the DLSU faithful froze, seemingly awaiting an inevitable defeat. “Parang pa-last point pa lang ata naiiyak na kaming lahat,” said Dimaculangan. An overexcited Tabaquero sent her serve long then Maizo’s attack was turned back. Two match points saved by DLSU. The Lady Spikers tried to hold on. But it was too late. Nerves got the best of Emeli Zuno as she made contact with the ball at the service line.       It sailed long. Pandemonium broke out. “Nagtatalon na kami nu’ng moment na yun, na ‘Heto na ang pinaghirapan natin.’ Ang sarap sa feeling na mag-champion ulit,” said Tabaquero after the final whistle of the season was called with UST completing the sweep with a 25-18, 25-14, 16-25, 25-15, victory.   For Delos Santos that championship was the fruit of their hard labor. “Sobrang happy kasi siyempre nagkaroon kami ng championship sa UST,” said Delos Santos of his only title for the Tigresses as head coach. “Sobrang memorable. Marami rin kaming pinagdaanan (bago makuha),” he added. UST accomplished a double-crown feat in volleyball that year, its fifth since the 1976-77, 1985-86 at 1987-88 and 1992-1993 seasons. As a reward the Tigresses earned a trip to Hong Kong. But even that trip had some good anecdotes for Delos Santos, Dimaculangan and Tabaquero. “Nag-trip to Hong Kong kami for two to three days sa Disneyland at Ocean Park,” said Delos Santos. “Sila lang mahilig mag-rides eh. Ako may phobia ako sa heights. Nung sumakay kami ng cable car para akong mahuhulog na ewan dun sa cable car.” Dimaculangan remembered vividly their flight. “Nag-Hong Kong kami noon tapos sakto pa na bumabagyo noong umalis kami noon. Buti nga natuloy kami noon eh,” she said. As for Tabaquero, unfortunately, she had to skip the trip. “Nagpunta sila ng Hong Kong pero ako di ako nakasama kasi late yung Hong Kong trip. Di ako nakasama kasi na-ACL (left injury) na ako nun sa Shakey’s V-League, yung sa championship ng San Sebastian,” she said. “Naka-schedule na ako ng surgery nun sa UST hospital kaya di ako nakasama.” “May incentive naman ako nun kahit di ako nakasama nun,” Tabaquero cleared. Ten years ago, UST ruled Season 72. It was the year of the Tiger. The year of the mighty, mighty Tigers.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 26th, 2020

UAAP volleyball’s most memorable Finals five-setters (2010-19)

UAAP volleyball fans just love to see matches go the full five sets. It means more action, more suspense and more drama as the game goes to an exciting climax. What more if it happens in the Finals? We’ve listed down some of the exciting five-set championship games in the past decade.     SEASON 74: FEU-UST Men’s Finals Game 2 (Feb. 29, 2012) For the past four years prior to Season 74, University of Sto. Tomas dominated the men’s competition. For two straight seasons, the Emil Lontoc-mentored Tigers had Far Eastern University’s number in the Finals.    In Season 74, the Tamaraws finally got their long-awaited revenge but not after surviving a war of attrition in Game 2. FEU went down, 1-2, in the match with the Mark Alfafara and Salvador Depante-led Tigers determined to keep UST’s five-peat bid alive following a stinging straight-set defeat in the series opener. The Tamaraws, who topped the eliminations, but was forced by De La Salle University to a do-or-die in the Final Four, fought back in the fourth behind JR Labrador and Arvin Avila to drag the match to a dramatic decider. The fifth set went as close at it could get with FEU just keeping a slim lead heading into the final stretch. The Tams moved at championship point off a Labrador off the block hit only to see the Tigers save two match points on a middle attack by Season Most Valuable Player Jayson Ramos and a Depante crosscourt hit. FEU coach George Pascua called time to stop the bleeding before setter Pitrus De Ocampo set up the then graduating Kirk Beliran for the finishing blow off a combination attack to complete the 25-27, 25-15, 19-25, 25-21, 15-13, victory. The Tams ended a four-year title drought for their 25th title overall.              SEASON 76: Ateneo-DLSU Women's Finals Game 3 (March 12, 2014) We all know how great Ateneo de Manila University was when they toppled the then four-peat-seeking and thrice-to-beat De La Salle University in the women’s Finals of UAAP Season 76. But in the four games that two proud teams fought, Game 3 decided the fate of the series. Yes, the series didn’t end here, but it definitely shifted the momentum to the eventual champion Lady Eagles and broke the Lady Spikers’ will. The Finals protagonists split the first two games with DLSU moving just a win away from extending its reign. Ateneo took control of the first two sets, but the Lady Spikers were able to mount a comeback to claim the next two to set up a decisive fifth frame. The race to the finish became thrilling as well as controversial.       It started out as a nip-and-tuck battle before DLSU built a 12-8 separation to move within three points from the crown. Drawing energy from crowd, the Alyssa Valdez-led Lady Eagles answered with a 6-1 blitz to move at match point. Ara Galang answered with a hit and a kill block to put the Taft-based squad at championship point. Valdez delivered at crunch time with a kill followed by a through the block kill by Michelle Morente for a 16-15 match point advantage. Then came the controversial call in the last play. DLSU setter Kim Fajardo was whistled for a double-contact as she tried to setup a play close to the net after a poor reception that ended the game, 25-21, 25-23, 18-25, 16-25, 17-15, as the shocked DLSU side held their hands in the air in disbelief.      It was the series’ backbreaker as Ateneo, with momentum on its side, finished off the Lady Spikers in straight sets in the series decider for the Lady Eagles’ breakthrough title and first of back-to-back crowns.   SEASON 78:  Ateneo-DLSU Women's Finals Game 2 (April 27, 2016) The then grand slam-seeking Ateneo Lady Eagles and DLSU Lady Spikers faced off in the Finals for the fifth straight time in Season 78. Eyeing redemption after finishing second for two straights seasons, DLSU shocked favored Ateneo led by its graduating hero Valdez in the series opener. The Lady Spikers were looking to finish off the Lady Eagles in Game 2. DLSU seemed to be on the right track when they took the first two sets. But Valdez, the Season Most Valuable Player, carried Ateneo on her back as the Lady Eagles rallied in the next two frames to force a deciding frame. With Valdez leading the way and momentum shifting on their side, the Lady Eagles were able to create a 10-7 separation. DLSU closed the gap, 11-13, only to see Ateneo hammer down the final blows. Jho Maraguinot scored an off the block kill before Amy Ahomiro turned back Majoy Baron to seal Ateneo’s 18-25, 26-28, 25-17, 25-16, 15-11. Valdez registered her then second-best scoring performance of 34 points including 32 kills. But the feat just delayed DLSU’s redemption season as the Lady Spikers took Game 3 and knocked the crown off the Lady Eagles’ heads for a victorious sendoff to graduating stars Mika Reyes, Ara Galang and Cyd Demecillo.     SEASON 79: Ateneo-DLSU Women's Finals Game 2 (May 6, 2017) Just like the previous year, DLSU stared at an Ateneo squad determined to drag the Season 79 Finals series to a deciding battle. The Lady Eagles were able take a 1-2 match advantage. The Lady Spikers regrouped in the fourth to put the match in another wild wind up. Riding the momentum of its fourth set win, DLSU raced to an early 6-2 advantage and looked poised to go for the kill as the Lady Spikers stretched their advantage to 10-4. Ateneo fought back, chipping away DLSU’s lead to close in, 9-12. Tin Tiamzon gave the Lady Spikers more breathing room only for Jho Maraguinot to cut DLSU’s lead to three once again. A Majoy Baron quick attack pushed the Lady Spikers at championship point before Maraguinot threw in the white towel after sending her attack long as DLSU walked away with a 19-25, 25-14, 18-25, 25-18, 15-10, victory and a 10th overall title.       SEASON 79: Ateneo-NU Men's Finals series (May 2 and May 6, 2017) It was the Ateneo Blue Eagles perfect season. The Marck Espejo, Rex Intal, Josh Villanueva and Tony Koyfman bannered Blue Eagles completed a rare 16-0 season sweep. But the Ateneo had to go through the proverbial eye of the needle to achieve the feat especially in the Finals series where the Blue Eagles needed stave off the gritty Bryan Bagunas and Fauzi Ismail-led NU Bulldogs in five sets twice. And in both games, Ateneo had to comeback from a 1-2 match deficit. Espejo dropped 29 points to lead the Blue Eagles to a 25-22, 21-25, 22-25, 25-18, 15-13, Game 1 win. The Season MVP again went firing on all cylinders in Game 2 as he scored 27 points including a 25-of-49 attacking clip in Ateneo’s 18-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-18, 15-13, title-clincher. Ateneo claimed its third straight crown.    WORTH MENTIONING SEASON 70: FEU-Adamson Women's Finals Game 3 (March 2, 2008) When we talk about dramatic five-set finishes, the meeting between FEU and Adamson in Game 3 of Season 70 women’s will always be included in the classic list.   Yes, it happened 12 years ago. But hey, it deserves recognition. The Lady Tams boasted of a deep roster of talents in Rachel Anne Daquis, Maica Morada, Season MVP Wendy Semana, Majo Cafranca, Anna Abanto and rookie Shaira Gonzales. On the other hand, the Lady Falcons had Sang Laguilles, Angela Benting, Jill Gustillo, Michelle Segodine, prized libero Lizlee Ann Gata and Janet Serafica. After splitting the first two games, Adamson came a set close to its first-ever crown in Game 3 after taking a 2-1 match lead. But Daquis came alive in the fourth helping breathe new life to the Nes Pamilar-mentored Lady Tams. The fifth frame started out close before FEU unleashed five unanswered points to turn a 2-4 deficit to a 7-4 lead. Adamson responded with two straight points to move within one, 7-6, only to allow the Lady Tams to again pull away. Shirt-tugging Morada pushed FEU at match point, 14-8, off a kill before Benting saved a point for Adamson. But a late substitution on Segodine, who was supposed to take serve, by service specialist Jennifer Hiponia proved to be fatal. Hiponia under tremendous pressure put too much power on her serve as FEU escaped with a 14-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-21, 15-9, victory and its 29th title overall.             SEASON 80: Ateneo-FEU men’s Final Four (April 21, 2018) It wasn’t a Finals game but the performance of Marck Espejo in this historic Final Four battle against FEU in Season 80 made this five-set clash worth mentioning. The then four-peat-seeking Ateneo was pitted against twice-to-beat Tamaraws. Espejo rewrote history as he carried the Blue Eagles on his back with a 55-point game to escape with a 18-25, 25-13, 24-26, 25-23, 15-9, win that forced a do-or-die match. The five-time MVP had a monster production of 47 attacks, six kill blocks and two aces. He scored 11 of Ateneo’s fifth set output. The Blue Eagles eventually clinched the last Finals spot but were dethroned by the Bulldogs.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles    .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 22nd, 2020

UAAP Season 82: First to impress in men’s volleyball

Fans got a chance to witness UAAP Season 82 men’s volleyball action early this month after a long delay following the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19). It was just unfortunate that the tournament needed to be put on halt in light of the latest development regarding the spread of the virus and the government's decision to put the National Capital Region under community quarantine. But in a single week fans got a taste of the league’s centerpiece second semester sporting event. It was short, honestly, but it did satisfy [sort of] the fans’ craving for UAAP volleyball. Let’s look back at some of the men's division players who made an impact in their first few outings.   LLOYD JOSAFAT Playing for a team composed of second-year players and rookies, University of the East sophomore Lloyd Josafat displayed maturity and leadership early in the Red Warriors’ campaign. Josafat set the scoring standard this season after firing 32 points to help UE silence University of the Philippines in four sets before the season was put to a halt. He unleashed 28 attack points off 53 attempts and added three kills blocks and an ace to put the Red Warriors in the win column after opening the season with a loss. Josafat had 10 markers in UE’s straight sets defeat to Far Eastern University.    JUDE GARCIA The graduating veteran played the hero’s role to help preserve Far Eastern University’s pristine record as last year’s runner-up tries to complete unfinished business this season. Garcia exploded for 27 points in a five-set escape act over University of Sto. Tomas for the Tamaraws’ second win in as many games and a share of the top spot with defending champion National University. Garcia, who scored crucial hits in the fifth set, had a crisp attacking clip as he nailed 21 attacks off 39 attempts. He also added three kill blocks and three aces for a well-rounded offensive outing.    Garcia took a backseat in the opener, scoring nine points in the Tams’ sweep of UE in a game that FEU dominated with its balance scoring.   LOUIS GASPAR GAMBAN This rookie made a name for himself not only as a dangerous scorer for University of the Philippines but also as an entertainer and energizer inside the court. Gamban backed his court sass and swag with an amazing performance both on offense and defense, making him one of  the rookies to watch this season. The University of Perpetual Help recruit made an unforgettable introduction when he powered the Fighting Maroons to a shocking, straight sets upset win over Ateneo de Manila University to open the season. Gamban scored 10 points to back another impressive freshman in John Lomibao, who had 11 markers, and laced his debut stats with six excellent receptions as UP snapped a 12-game head-to-head losing streak to the Blue Eagles. Gamban posted 11 points, 14 excellent receptions and 10 digs in the Fighting Maroons’ four-set defeat at the hands of UE.    JAU UMANDAL A stint with the national team did wonders for Umandal. The converted wing spiker showcased his scoring prowess after averaging 23 points per game for UST. Although the Golden Spikers have yet to win a game this season after two empty trips, Umandal gave UST faithful a ray of hope with his consistency. Umandal, a member of the national squad that won silver in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, delivered 25 points with 24 coming off kills in his first game in a four-set loss to National University. He followed it up with a 21-point production spiked with 13 excellent receptions but all his efforts went down the drain as UST bowed down to FEU in five sets.   OWA RETAMAR Expectations are high for setter Retamar after his amazing stint with the national team in the SEA Games as its main playmaker. The sophomore did not disappoint. Retamar dished out 21 excellent sets that helped NU pound 59 attacks in its opening day win over UST. He backed his great playmaking with six points. Retamar followed it up with 16 excellent sets and four points in the Bulldogs’ dominating win over Adamson University as NU kept a spotless record on top of the standings.   CHU NJIGHA Njigha is slowly taking over the leadership role for Ateneo. The Season 79 Rookie of the Year stepped up big time to help the Blue Eagles bounce back from an opening day loss. He finished with 20 points built on 18 kills and two kill blocks in Ateneo’s straight sets win over De La Salle University. Njigha finished with 12 points in the Blue Eagles’ opening day defeat at the hands of UP.   JOHN MARK RONQUILLO The rookie made his presence felt for DLSU when he debuted with 11 points – all off attacks. Although his effort was not enough to lift the Green Spikers past Ateneo, Ronquillo gave DLSU faithful a glimpse of their future star. Together with another freshman in Vince Maglinao, DLSU could be looking at the cornerstones of the Green Spikers’ rise back to UAAP men’s volleyball prominence.     LEO MIRANDA Adamson U started on the wrong foot after suffering a beating at the hands of NU. But it didn’t stop skipper Leo Miranda from trying. Miranda was limited to only seven points but he compensated his cold offensive outing with his floor defense as he tallied 16 digs and 16 excellent receptions.      Show your school spirit. Get official UAAP university licensed merchandise from www.uaapstore.com.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 16th, 2020

UAAP Season 82: First to impress in women’s volleyball

Fans got a chance to witness UAAP Season 82 women’s volleyball action last week after a long delay following the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19). It was just unfortunate that the tournament needed to be put on halt in light of the latest development regarding the spread of the virus for the safety of players, officials and fans. But in a single week fans got a taste of the league’s second semester centerpiece sporting event. It was short, honestly, but it did [sort of] satisfy the fans’ craving for UAAP volleyball. Let’s look back at some of who players that made immediate impact for their respective teams in the week that was.   MARGOT MUTSHIMA The Congolese recruit debuted with a bang for National University, helping the Lady Bulldogs score a major upset over last year’s runner-up University of Sto. Tomas in five sets. Towering at 6-foot-2 and playing at the wing spot, the foreign student-athlete fired 23 points she collected from 20 attacks and three aces. Mutshima followed it up with 13 markers coming off seven kills, three blocks and three aces as NU demolished Adamson University in straight sets.   EYA LAURE Carrying the torch for the now graduate Sisi Rondina, the Season 81 Rookie of the Year showed that University of Sto. Tomas is in good hands The Tigresses’ first game may not be the ideal start that UST wanted after losing to National University in five sets but Laure displayed her well-rounded game with 20 points, 19 on attacks, and added 18 digs. She then led the Tigresses to a straight sets bounce back win over Far Eastern University, scoring 16 points on 12 kills, three kill blocks and an ace. Laure also posted 14 digs and eight excellent receptions.     FAITH NISPEROS The blue chip recruit of defending champion Ateneo de Manila University after two games strengthened her case for the coveted rookie of the year honors. Nisperos announced her arrival with 10 points – all on attacks – and seven excellent receptions in the Lady Eagles’ 25-13, 25-17, 25-23, drubbing of University of the Philippines. She then proved that her debut was no fluke when Nisperos blasted 13 markers including 10 from spikes in her first taste of the storied Ateneo-De La Salle University rivalry. Unfortunately, she was the only Lady Eagle in double figures as Ateneo bowed down in four sets.       RISA SATO After missing action last year, the graduating middle played her role well for National University both as a court leader and scoring option.    In her first game back, Sato finished with seven kill blocks in her 17-point outing in the Lady Bulldogs’ win over UST. Sato then had eight markers, half off kill blocks, as NU crushed Adamson U.    EJ LAURE Two years removed from UAAP wars because of a stubborn shoulder injury, Laure reminded the league of who she is. The Season 77 Rookie of the Year dropped 17 points, 15 on spikes, and laced her comeback performance with 20 digs and 12 excellent receptions in a loss to NU. She then picked up from where she left off and hammered 10 of her 12 points on kills in a win over FEU.   THEA GAGATE The towering De La Salle University rookie passed her baptism of fire with flying colors. Gagate showed no signs of rookie jitters as she registered 10 points in the Lady Spikers’ first game and opening day victory over archrival Ateneo. The 6-foot-2 freshman wreaked havoc at the net as she anchored the DLSU’s solid net defense with five kill blocks that frustrated the Lady Eagles.   ISA MOLDE The graduating UP knows how to bounce back in style after a disappointing first game. Coming off a stinging straight sets defeat at the hands of Ateneo in their first game, Molde registered a season-high 24 points in the Fighting Maroons’ four-set win over University of the East.  She had 18 attacks, four kill blocks and a pair of aces for an all-around scoring effort. Molde opened her season with nine points, seven off kills, and seven digs   TIN TIAMZON In the first game of her swan song, Tiamzon did not disappoint after exploding for 17 points in DLSU’s win over Ateneo. The graduating hitter smashed 14 spikes, had a pair of kill blocks and an ace to go with 12 digs and 13 excellent receptions for the Lady Spikers. Her best moment so far in the season was getting that badge of honor high-five from head coach Ramil De Jesus after scoring a point.    LORENE TORING Adamson U received a reality check in their first game of the season, losing in three sets to NU. However, the Lady Falcons found a gem in lanky in Toring after the rookie displayed an all-around game on offense. Toring finished with 11 points coming off six spikes, two kill blocks and three aces.     JEANNETE VILLAREAL FEU lost most of its scorers last year, leaving a rebuilding team to campaign in Season 82. Fortunately, the Lady Tamaraws still have a silent operator in Villareal. She opened the season with 11 points as FEU gored UE in straights sets. Villareal finished with eight kills, two kill blocks and an ace. But the Lady Tams failed to sustain their momentum as they fell victim to UST in three sets with Villareal providing seven markers.    TOTS CARLOS Playing in her final season, Carlos delivered consistently as expected. She was the lone bright spot for UP in an opening day loss to Ateneo, finishing with 11 points as the only Fighting Maroon in double figures. Carlos then provided 15 markers including 12 from attacks for UP in its four-set rebound win over UE. She added nine digs.    JEL QUIZON Coming into the season, the UE rookie playmaker already knew she has big shoes to fill as replacement for now graduate Season 81 Best Setter Lai Bendong. Quizon did her job well - albeit not translating into victories – for the Lady Warriors. She debuted with 18 excellent sets and scored three points in a lost cause against FEU. Quizon then tallied 21 excellent sets, seven more than the total of UP, and four markers in a four-set loss to the Fighting Maroons.         Show your school spirit. Get official UAAP university licensed merchandise from www.uaapstore.com. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 13th, 2020

Unforgettable UAAP Final Four Moments

A Final Four in any of the UAAP seasons in the last 26 years has always been memorable and epic. Since Season 56, the format has intensified the competitiveness in the league, as it has since given four teams the chance at a championship, instead of just two teams in the 55 seasons prior. Here we witnessed dramatic, climactic face-offs between the first and fourth placers, and the second and third placers, with the top two teams enjoying a twice-to-beat advantage. This is to determine who will slug it out in the Finals. Yet there are rare instances when a school tops the eliminations unscathed, just like this year’s mighty Ateneo Blue Eagles, who advanced to the Finals outright after sweeping the round. In this case, a stepladder Final Four is implemented wherein the third and fourth battle each other in a do-or-die match before facing the second placer, which has a twice-to-beat advantage. And yes, these teams have made their playoff wars exciting and spectacular with a level of play that is truly exceptional. Here are some of the most powerful, controversial, heroic, and reverberating moments in the UAAP Final Four that have been forever etched in our minds:   1) UP enters Finals for first time in 32 years in Season 81 In their first Final Four appearance in 21 years, the UP Fighting Maroons had the utmost desire to make history once more with the battlecry “Atin ‘To,” captain Paul Desiderio’s famous call to arms.  And, in Season 81, barreling into the semifinals was already a gigantic feat, having been in the cellar for quite a while in the UAAP.  But they wanted more, and facing a championship-ready Adamson Soaring Falcons was an immense challenge with its lean and mean arsenal, given how the San Marcelino cagers had waylaid the competition in the eliminations, including the defending champions Ateneo. But they were unfazed with Adamson’s twice-to-beat advantage, and in Game 1, they would beat the odds, as the Fighting Maroons and the Soaring Falcons ended up tied at 71-all with three seconds to go. As Juan Gomez de Liano was inbounding, he found an open Bright Akhuetie near the basket to convert the game-winner for UP to arrange a winner-take-all.  And in the decider, it was again a tedious trek for both teams, with the game tied for the last time at 87-all in overtime. Then, the fiery captain will again own it for the Fighting Maroons as he swooshed a jumper off Adamson’s Sean Maganti with 6.6 seconds left. With Falcon guard Jeron Lastimosa missing a three off a timeout as time ran out led to utter euphoria in the Maroon-dominated Araneta Coliseum, spilling out to the numerous UP campuses across the nation, as the Fighting Maroons entered the Finals for the first time in 32 years. They would be denied a repeat of their 1986 title run however by the back-to-back champions Ateneo Blue Eagles, which won the Finals convincingly.   2) Blue Eagle Gec Chia’s miracle “shot” in Season 65 Season 65 was certainly the most unforgettable for the Ateneo Blue Eagles as it achieved a flurry of milestones. Already with a well-developed line-up and the immense motivation to win it all, after their previous heartbreaking campaigns, the Eagles had beaten the league-leading and four-peat-hunting DLSU Green Archers in the last game of the eliminations, denying them a sweep and an outright finals berth. And in third place at the end of the elims, the Eagles would face another formidable squad, the James Yap and Paul Artadi-enforced second-placers UE Red Warriors. After staging a stunning upset in the first game of their Final Four match-up, 84-78, Ateneo again engaged UE in a close, hard fought decider and both teams were tied at 70-all with 7.8 seconds left.  With LA Tenorio trapped in the offensive play, he would kick the ball out to the gutsy marksman Gec Chia, who would rise to the occasion and soar over a phalanx of defenders to make that miracle “Shot” heard everywhere as time expired. That unforgettable shot pushed the Eagles into that climactic end to a 14-year title drought in the Finals by that Herculean drubbing of La Salle.   3) FEU’s Mac Belo buries last-second corner three against La Salle in Season 77 On October 1, 2014, the defending champions DLSU Green Archers threatened the second placers FEU Tamaraws, with a menacing win in their first match in the Final Four of Season 77, nearing to book another trip to the Finals. In Game Two, with 24 ticks remaining, the Tamaraws used up the remaining seconds with the intent of taking the last shot.  FEU point guard Mike Tolomia then barreled his way through the paint, drawing two La Salle defenders and leaving Mac Belo free at the corner. With a little over two seconds to go, Tolomia would hand the ball off to Belo for a catch-and-shoot beyond the arc at the right corner and buried the three as time expired, giving the Tamaraws a return trip to the Finals. They would, however, eventually lose to a gritty NU Bulldogs, which won their first title in 60 years.   4) FEU eliminates Ateneo with Mac Belo’s follow up buzzer beater in Season 78 In Season 78, the FEU Tamaraws would most certainly want another crack at the title, after losing to NU the previous year. And they were really scorching hot in the eliminations, ending up tied with the UST Growling Tigers at the top of the heap, but dropped to second place due to a lower quotient. In the Final Four, they would face the third placers Ateneo Blue Eagles with a twice-to-beat advantage. On November 21, 2015, the FEU and Ateneo were stuck in a really close game with Roger Pogoy waxing hot for the Tams, and Kiefer Ravena leading all departments for the Eagles. With ten seconds to go, Adrian Wong of Ateneo streaked for a layup after a Richard Escoto miss. Wong’s daredevil shot was deflected and the ball ended up in the hands of Mike Tolomia, who rushed back to the FEU side of the court for the final shot. He would make a gallant incursion with a near acrobatic layup with one second to go. And as the ball rimmed out, a well-positioned Mac Belo was below the basket for the quick, buzzer beating putback that once more sent the Tamaraws to the Finals. FEU would then claim their 20th title overall over the UST Growling Tigers in the Finals.   5) FEU's Miko Roldan hits game-winner against Ateneo in Season 63  Mac Belo breaking the hearts of Ateneans with that buzzer beater in Season 78 was like history repeating itself. Fifteen years earlier, the Tamaraws, led by Celino Cruz and Edwin Bacani, also engaged the Blue Eagles to a Final Four battle, with Ateneo having that twice-to-beat privilege.  Led by Rich Alvarez, LA Tenorio and Larry Fonacier, the Blue Eagles were really soaring to get that elusive title it last won in 1988. And in the first game in the Final Four, people were expecting the Blue Eagles to cruise past FEU, having beaten them twice in the elims.  But the Tamaraws really gave them a hell of a match. As Andrew Cruz flubbed two charities in the dying seconds that should have given the Blue Eagles a comfortable three-point lead, FEU gunner Miko Roldan sank a semi-hook shot at the buzzer in the ensuing play to break the hearts of Ateneans everywhere and extend the series, 61-60. In the decider, Cruz and Bacani would conspire for 39 points to complete a monster upset, 75-67, and reach the Finals. The defending champions DLSU Green Archers, led by the legendary Renren Ritualo, was just too much for the Tams in the Finals and copped their three-peat.   6) Fight-marred Ateneo-La Salle Final Four series in Season 66 Joseph Yeo was all over the court in a scoring binge while Rookie-of-the-Year JVee Casio showed a glimpse of being a clutch player as the DLSU Green Archers, the fourth seed, took their storied rivalry with defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles, the top seed, to a tenacious, heated Final Four war. Heightened emotions were at play since Ateneo’s colossal Finals victory the previous season, and the animosity between the two ballclubs was at its fiercest and most intense. In Game 1, after La Salle’s Jerwin Gaco’s putback sent the game into overtime, the extended play’s physicality went to overdrive. With 1:31 left in overtime, Gaco bumped LA Tenorio in the battle for the loose ball. Tenorio would then sneak a punch at Gaco, who then nudged the Ateneo guard. This led to a bench-clearing brawl, as players punched, kicked and shoved each other while the coaches tried to break up the fight even as referees whistled repeatedly.  La Salle’s Ryan Arana kicked Ateneo’s Wesley Gonzales from behind and the league meted the Archer with a one-game suspension. Also suspended were Tenorio and fellow Blue Eagle Christian "Badjie" del Rosario. The Archers would prevail after the five-minute extension, 76-72. The decider was also as heated with on-court and off-court flare-ups and violent confrontations between players and supporters. Ateneo’s steady offense, however, prevailed in the final minute, as the Blue Eagles hung on to 74-68 victory, entering the Finals for the second straight year. FEU, however, would deny Ateneo a back-to-back run, winning the championship in two games.   7) UST trounces NU twice to become first fourth placer to eliminate the top-seed in a Final Four series in Season 76 The NU Bulldogs were on a roll, and 2013 seemed to be their year, with Bobby Ray Parks returning after back-to-back MVP seasons and leading them to reach the top of the standings at the end of eliminations. But they have their Achilles heel—the dribblers of Espana—who have exerted their mastery of the Bulldogs, winning twice in the elims. And bad news for the Bulldogs, they would meet the UST Growling Tigers, which ended at fourth place, in the Final Four.  In Game 1, a red-hot Kevin Ferrer would lead UST to its biggest margin of 18 within the match, but they needed to fend off NU’s late charge, 71-62, to force a rubber match. And in the winner-take-all, UST completed its mastery of top-ranked Bulldogs, again with a game-long dominance to end at 76-69, marking the first time a fourth seed would snatch a Finals berth from a first-placer in the league.   8) NU’s Alfred Aroga’s monster block on Ateneo’s Kiefer Ravena in Season 77 After a frustrating loss to UST in the Season 76 Final Four, NU would get another crack at gaining that elusive Finals appearance. But in the next chapter of the semifinals, NU will hope for a Cinderella finish to gain that berth, trying to beat the top placers Ateneo Blue Eagles, just like what UST did to them in the previous year when they were the top-seed. Jay-Jay Alejandrino and Troy Rosario led NU’s surge in the fourth quarter of the first game to spoil Ateneo’s twice to beat to force a deciding game. In the rubber match, no clear advantage was evident in the majority of the game. But after NU’s Gelo Alolino broke a 63-all tie with two charities off a foul from Ateneo’s Nico Elorde, 65-63, Kiefer Ravena would try to send the game to overtime with a drive against several NU defenders with three seconds left.  He failed however after NU’s Alfred Aroga swatted his attempt as time expired—a monster block that brought NU to its first finals appearance in 44 years. The Bulldogs would then wallop the FEU Tamaraws in the Finals, 2-1, to clinch their first title in 60 years. 9) Coming out party of UE’s Paul Lee in Season 72 The UE Red Warriors had come off from a heartbreaking Finals loss to the DLSU Green Archers in Season 70 after sweeping the eliminations, and another hurtful exit the succeeding year with a Final Four defeat at the hands of the Ateneo Blue Eagles. The Red Warriors would then make another trip to the Final Four in Season 72, which was the coming out party of prolific scorer Paul Lee, as the league’s third best after the eliminations. UE would battle second placers FEU for the chance to enter the Finals once more after the Season 70 debacle. They extended the series after Lee led a late game spurt with three consecutive three-pointers in a devastating 18-5 run, he would end up with a game-high 26 points. In the rubber match, with UE trailing FEU in the first half, the Red Warriors would make an explosive comeback in the second half and would again rely on the dependable Lee and Pari Llagas for their late-game heroics. Llagas would lift UE up for good with two straight field goals, 72-70, while Lee showed nerves of steel as he sank four consecutive free throws at the end of the game, 78-72, to give UE their Finals ticket. UE, however, would bow to powerhouse Ateneo Blue Eagles in the Finals in three games.   10) UST’s Jojo Duncil completes winning three-point play that frustrated UE in Season 69 By this time, the UE Red Warriors were in their fifth straight Final Four appearance. And in Season 69, UE would land at second place after the eliminations behind Ateneo, relishing its twice-to-beat advantage.  In the Final Four, UE would face a determined UST Growling Tigers, who were seeking redemption after last winning the championship in 1996, the last year of their 90s four-peat dynasty. UST would eke out a hard-earned Game 1 victory, 79-75 victory over UE that led to a deciding Game 2. In this clincher, both UST and UE kept the match close.  And in the final quarter, with the score tied at 79-all in the dying seconds, Growling Tiger Jojo Duncil converted on a tip-in, and-1, after a previous miss and teammate Jervy Cruz’s failed putback. Duncil would then complete the three-point play to give the UST an 82-79 edge, a few seconds left. UE’s Marcy Arellano would drive unmolested for an easy two to cut the lead to a solitary point, 82-81, nearing the end of the game. After UST committed a turnover, the Red Warriors had the chance to drop the game-winner but UE’s Jorel Cañizares missed a medium-range jump shot and a follow-up. Teammate Robert Labagala would then grab the rebound, but time ran out on the Recto dribblers. UST entered the Finals and annexed its first UAAP title in 10 years over the Ateneo Blue Eagles. Will there be another unforgettable Final Four moment in this current Season 82? Catch the start of the stepladder Final Four hostilities with the do-or-die match between the UST Growling Tigers and the FEU Tamaraws on Wednesday, November 6, for the right to meet the twice-to-beat second placers UP Fighting Maroons on Sunday, November 10......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 4th, 2019

UAAP 82: UST downs DLSU to complete four-peat in Women s Beach Volleyball

University of Santo Tomas' Babylove Barbon and Gen Eslapor withstood the tough De La Salle pair of Tin Tiamzon and Justine Jazareno in the Finals to complete another perfect season and a women's four-peat Sunday in the UAAP Beach Volleyball Tournament at Sands SM By The Bay. UST claimed its seventh women's championship and the first in the post-Sisi Rondina era. Barbon, who had to fill a huge void left by Rondina to cement the Tigresses' dynasty, was named the MVP. "Sobrang saya kasi yung goal namin ay ma-defend ang crown. Nagawa po namin siya. Inalay po namin yung game sa UST, sa mga taong naniniwala sa amin at lalong lalo na kay ate Sisi," said Barbon. "Ilang din years siyang nag-champion kaya ayaw naming mabigo siya. Iniwan niya ang team na laging nagtsa-champion kaya kailangan naming ituloy na laging champion," the Quezon, Bukidnon native added. The Tigresses needed to outlast the Lady Spikers 21-14, 20-22, 15-12, in the Finals opener. UST survived a gallant De La Salle stand in the extended opening set and withstood its foes late second frame uprising to fashion out a 28-26, 21-18 victory to emerge as queens once more. "Sobrang galing din nila po," said Barbon of the Lady Spikers, who finished bridesmaids for the second straight year. No doubt, Barbon and Eslapor's connection worked wonders for the Tigresses, who extended their winning run to 29 games dating back from 2016. "May chemistry talaga po kami kasi ilang off-season leagues kami na sinasalihan. Doon kami kumukuha ng idea kung paano maglaro dito sa UAAP," said Barbon. Roma Mae Doromal, who with Ponggay Gaston powered Ateneo to third place, took the Rookie of the Year honors......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 6th, 2019

UAAP Season 81 Finals: Bulldogs start title defense

National University braces for a tough battle as the Bulldogs begin their title defense against a very hungry and determined Far Eastern University side on Saturday in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 81 men’s volleyball tournament at the Big Dome. Game time is at 12:00 noon and it will air live on ABS-CBN S+A Channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD Channel 166, LIGA SkyCable Channel 86, LIGA HD SkyCable Channel 183, iWant and via livestream. The Bulldogs are making their seventh straight Finals appearance but will take on a different opponent after the Tamaraws booted out Ateneo de Manila University in the Final Four thus ending the five-year NU-Ateneo title rivalry. NU head coach Dante Alinsunurin knows that this is going to be a challenging series as both teams are equal in firepower. “Siguro nagkakatalo na kami ngayon kung sino ang makaka-receive talaga. Halos pantay naman ang team ngayon sa skills at sa experience,” said Alinsunurin, who last faced FEU in the Finals back in Season 75 when he steered the Bulldogs to the first of three titles. NU and FEU split their elimination round head-to-head with the Tams dealing the Bulldogs a straight sets beating in the season-opener. NU returned the favor in their rematch. The Bulldogs will come into the match carrying the momentum of a 14-game winning streak, including a straight sets domination of Adamson University in the Final Four. Alinsunurin will pin his hopes on his solid and battle-tested line-up led by Season MVP Bryan Bagunas, Rookie of the Year Angelo Almendras, James Natividad, Francis Saura and Kim Malabunga. But FEU is no easy opponent. The Tams are coming into the game hungry for the crown that eluded them since winning it all back in Season 74. “Yun naman lagi ang mindset namin from coaching staff, yung mga advicer namin, yung mga supporters namin. Talagang ang laging naka-mindset kami na uhaw, na gusto naming makuha (ang kampeonato). Sinimulan na natin dapat walang titigil,” said FEU coach Rei Diaz. Leading the charge of the Tams are Jude Garcia, Richard Solis, JP Bugaoan, Redijohn Paler, Peter Quiel and setter Owen Suarez.       --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 10th, 2019

Always About the People

“Solid!” That was the only reaction, or lack thereof, that I could muster after that first breakaway slam of Kiefer Ravena’s UAAP collegiate basketball career over the outstretched arms of UST’s foreign center, Karim Abdul. Moments before, you could see Kiefer was going to go hard, as it was a one-on-one breakaway and he had the speed advantage over Abdul, who was hot on his heels. Little did I know that he was going to go for that highlight that would announce his entry into college basketball. That reaction, that loss for words, can pretty much sum up my past 10 years of covering college basketball for ABS-CBN Sports.  They first asked me to write about my most memorable UAAP game coverage; but I must confess, I was never really good at remembering exact details of games, unlike some of my fellow sportscasters, or even coaches I know, who remember almost detail for detail, or play by play. My memories come in highlights, or sometimes even just flashes of good or memorable plays.  I remember a 6’8”, 18-year old Ben Mbala, whom we first saw a glimpse of while Anton Roxas and I were covering the CESAFI league in the hot and humid Cebu Coliseum, sometime around 2012. He was playing for the Southwestern University Cobras, wasn’t as built and polished as when he was with DLSU, but you could already see the raw talent and athleticism. Fast forward a few years, I remember well how he took the UAAP by storm, with his monster dunks, and how he piloted La Salle to a championship while winning league MVP in Season 79.  I remember the heralded rookie season of Kiefer Ravena in the men’s division, after a storied juniors career. Kiefer won Rookie of the Year honors and helped lead Ateneo to two more titles to round up their 5-peat, before it was Jeron Teng’s turn to lead the Green Archers to a championship over his elder brother Jeric and the UST Growling Tigers.  I remember Bobby Ray Parks Jr. and his back-to-back MVP seasons. He was arguably the most complete college player during that time. It was painful to see his team fall short especially during his second MVP year. The Bulldogs made history the year after though, with Alfred Aroga, Troy Rosario, and Gelo Alolino now at the helm, winning the school’s first ever championship after more than forty years. I would argue that the past decade saw some of the brightest UAAP college basketball stars, both local and foreign, take to the hard court. It would almost be unfair to start naming them because I’ll surely end up leaving some names worthy enough to be mentioned. But we all remember Greg Slaughter, Ryan Buenafe, RR Garcia, Terence Romeo, Mac Belo, RR Pogoy, Roi Sumang, Charles Mamie, Alex Nuyles, Jericho Cruz, Papi Sarr, Jeron Teng, Jason Perkins, Aljun Melecio, Kiefer and Thirdy, Bobby Ray, Alfred Aroga, Kevin Ferrer, Karim Abul, Jeric Teng, Ange Kuoame, Matt and Mike Nieto, Paul Desiderio, Juan GDL, and the list goes on and on… all of them making their mark in the UAAP the past ten years. Aside from the highlights, there were the more mundane, behind-the-scenes memories, especially covering out-of-town games when we used to do the CESAFI and the PCCL. That was basketball coverage at its purest. There was a time we traveled to Lanao Del Sur to cover the Mindanao regional selection of the PCCL. Lanao was about another two to three hour drive from Cagayan de Oro along a dark highway with trees and mountains all around; and where there was only one mall in the entire town. Or when we traveled by van to La Union to cover the north regional selection of the PCCL… or even staying a whole week at the Cebu Grand Hotel, for the VisMin regional selection. Coverages then were bare bones: no real-time stats or live graphics, and I would even sometimes have to tally the points and rebounds of each player in-game on my notebook just so that I’d have some semblance of stats to mention on the coverage. Still, those games were so much fun because the players, getting their first shot at national TV coverage, would leave everything out on the floor.  In a year or so, both the UAAP and the NCAA will announce their respective new homes, and new broadcast teams will have the privilege of covering the best collegiate basketball players in the country. That’s how the ball bounces. I’m a firm believer that in life there are seasons, and a perfect time for everything. I’m just thankful for the opportunities thrown my way. If you were to ask me why the coverage of the UAAP helped build the league into what it is today, my answer would be simple: it was always about the people. At the end of the day, what makes the UAAP and its coverage great are the stories of the people that play, coach, officiate, cover, and run the games. It’s not really about the championships or the awards, but rather the challenges, hardships, and journeys of each of the individuals that brought them there.  And it is also about the directors, producers, cameramen, reporters and make-up artists that make sure that the audience sees what is supposed to be seen – the winning basket, a fan’s priceless reaction, the agony in defeat, and the glory of victory. It’s what Boom Gonzalez or Mico Halili would always say, that our job as anchors and analysts is to tell the people watching at home the story of what is happening in the game in the best way possible.  I just want to tip my hat to all the people that allowed us to do our jobs the best way possible. From our directors, producers, cameramen, floor directors, fellow panelists, courtside reporters, league officials, statisticians, make-up artists, and all those people behind the scenes whom we worked with, know that we were able to give our best because of you; and the UAAP coverage will not be what it is if not for all of your hard work and dedication.  It was, is, and will always be about the people. Marco Benitez was the team captain for the Ateneo Blue Eagles when they won the UAAP Season 65 men's seniors basketball title in 2002. Marco eventually covered collegiate basketball as analyst for ABS-CBN Sports starting in 2010. He is presently the President of the Philippine Women's University (PWU)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 23rd, 2020

SUPER SHOWDOWN: rookie Dindin Santiago vs. rookie Jaja Santiago

Towering sisters Dindin Santiago-Manabat and Jaja Santiago left lasting impacts in the UAAP. Versatile, talented and intimidating are just some of the traits the siblings share. Both are vital cogs in their local commercial league club and are valuable assets to the national team. International clubs even took notice of the Santiago sisters’ dominant presence and high-level volleyball skills that they landed deals to play in the prestigious Japan V. Premier League. And of course if you’re a University of Sto. Tomas faithful you’ll often wonder what the Tigresses would have achieved if the sisters stayed in Espana instead of moving to National University. Looking back, we saw how the Santiago sisters evolved into what they are today. With their towering presence, both immediately made valuable contribution during their debut seasons? But then again, which Santiago made a bigger impact in their rookie year? Dindin’s first year with UST or Jaja’s maiden tour of duty for NU?   OFFENSE and DEFENSE Dindin right now stands at 6-foot-2 while Jaja is listed at 6-foot-5, even if we deduct a few inches from their current height during their respective debuts they’ll still be pretty tall compared to the rest of the field. In Season 72, Dindin complemented an already stacked Tigresses. Though overshadowed by legends Aiza Maizo and Angeli Tabaquero, Dindin made a decent contribution on offense averaging almost six points per game. Dindin was on UST’s top five in the blocking department. Compared to her older sister, Jaja’s rookie year in Season 76 was more impressive. Jaja averaged 10.7 points per outing behind her Dindin (16.7), who was then on her last year after transferring to NU. Jaja had a 41.99% success rate in attacks – landing at second spot overall after Dindin’s (46.10%). The younger Santiago normed 0.50 kill blocks per set to anchor the Lady Bulldogs’ net defense.        TEAM IMPACT Dindin was a welcome addition to the Tigresses. However, playing in a squad filled with veterans left Dindin little room to display her full potential. Maizo and Tabaquero shared much of the scoring load while Maika Ortiz, Maru Banaticla and Judy Ann Caballejo provided the extra punch. But Dindin did play her role well as one of head coach Shaq delos Santos’ prized recruits. Dindin, indeed, made her presence felt in her own little way as UST climbed its way into the Finals. Jaja’s entry in Season 76 put NU as one of the top contenders to challenge the then reigning three-peat champion De La Salle University. Together with her sister, they formed NU’s dreaded twin towers and with the likes of Mina Aganon, Aiko Urdas and Myla Pablo, many predicted the Lady Bulldogs would make it all the way to the Finals. In fact, NU almost did before the Alyssa Valdez-led Ateneo de Manila University spoiled everything.      As a consolation for all her hard work, Jaja was the runaway winner of the Rookie of the Year award   COMPETITION Dindin played in a very competitive field. She took on a number of powerhitters and precision spikers like De La Salle University’s Big Three in Paneng Mercado, Jacq Alarca and Cha Cruz. Dindin also faced Adamson University’s Angela Benting and Pau Soriano, Ateneo had Dzi Gervacio and Fille Cainglet, Far Eastern University’s Cherry Vivas, NU’s Mervic Mangui, Mela Lopez of University of the Philippines and Kite Rosale of University of the East. Jaja, on the other hand, had to contend with an equally powerful field. Valdez was on a different level that season, so was DLSU with the trio of Ara Galang, Aby Marano and Mika Reyes. Bang Pineda was wreaking havoc for Adamson, FEU had Bernadeth Pons, Mela Tunay and Pam Lastimosa were the stars of UST, UP had their own towers in Kathy Bersola and Angeli Araneta while Shaya Adorador was UE’s standout.      LASTING IMPRESSION Dindin, of course, was the fortunate one among the siblings. She experienced the glory of winning championship after helping the Tigresses dethrone the Lady Spikers in her first year. That championship remains as UST’s last title to this day. But what really stuck was Dindin’s decision to jump ship a season after winning the crown. Dindin made the headlines when she left UST to join the Lady Bulldogs in a move that drew mixed reactions and a whole lot of speculations in what convinced her to drop the black and gold for NU’s colors. Dindin’s transfer was followed by Jaja committing to NU after a successful run with UST’s high school team. Jaja won the RoY award and helped NU move a win closer to a Finals appearance. The Lady Bulldogs were armed with a twice-to-beat advantage but NU’s twin towers and talents were not enough to overcome the steamrolling Lady Eagles. Jaja’s career started off at least on a good note considering how far NU advanced after years of frustrations. Jaja would eventually lead the Lady Bulldogs to two more Final Four appearance with their last in Season 80 – the same year when she bagged the Most Valuable Player award.     Now who’s the better rookie Santiago? Hard to tell. On one side, you have Dindin who won a championship while on the other you have Jaja with her individual accomplishments and accolades.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 31st, 2020

Even courtside reporter Tricia Robredo lived NU s no regrets mentality in UAAP 77

National University had to take the rougher road to reach the mountaintop in UAAP 77. First, the Bulldogs had to come out on top of Roi Sumang's University of the East for the fourth-seed. Next, they had to come through against top-seeded and twice-to-beat Ateneo de Manila University with Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal showing the way. Finally, they had to claim the crown at the expense of Mac Belo and Mike Tolomia-led Far Eastern University in three games, having lost the Finals opener. In the end, though, at long last, Jhocson Street was to be the venue of a championship celebration anew. National U won it all because it played every game like it was its last - and, well, many of those matchups could, indeed, have been its last. That's exactly why in each and every game in that Cinderella run, they made sure to leave their all on the floor. "Ang battle cry namin nun was 'no regrets' kasi talagang ang dami naming knockout nun so nilagay namin sa board yun," head coach Eric Altamirano said in last week's The Prospects Pod. He then continued, "We put it there, 'no regrets.' Ano man ang abutin namin, okay lang as long as binigay namin lahat. Every game, that's what we reminded each other." Apparently, that mentality wasn't for coaches and players alone. In fact, long before that Cinderella run, one person in the Bulldogs' camp was already having no regrets. "Before the season, when ABS-CBN called me for my second and last, I was tentative pa kung babalik pa talaga ako kasi I was already in med school," courtside reporter Tricia Robredo shared in her surprise appearance in the same episode. "Pero yun nga, like sabi ni Coach E, mare-regret ko yun kung hindi ako bumalik." Robredo was coming off her rookie year as CSR, but was already done with her premed course by then. Meaning, med school proper was already awaiting her. Years later, though, the 26-year-old now studying for the board exams has no regrets about her decision. "Lalo na nga nag-champion pa sila. Sobrang saya nila, very light ang atmosphere that season. Not only light, pero kahit hindi sila kina-count na isa sa mananalo, sobrang tatapang nila," she shared. She then continued, "Kaya towards the end of the season, alam mong may chance kasi go lang sila. Sobrang inspiring to be in their presence kaya masaya naman akong naging part ako nun kunwari kahit 'di naman ako naglaro." And for the UAAP 77 champions, they would not have wanted another CSR to be standing alongside them as they made history. As Coach E put it, "Well, sa akin, personally talaga, when you talk about NU Season 77, hindi mawawala si Trish." --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 15th, 2020

WHAT IF... Ben Mbala played his last year in La Salle

History lesson: Ben Mbala was one of the most dominant - if not the most dominant - forces the UAAP has ever seen. Winning a championship as well as back-to-back MVPs, Mbala was, hands down, the best player in all of college in his two years suiting up for De La Salle University. Technically, he had one more playing year, but decided against it to take back control of his career. This decision, coming right after the Green Archers got dethroned by archrival Ateneo de Manila University in a thrilling three-game Finals. That would just be the first of three championships in a row for the Blue Eagles who swept the University of the Philippines and the University of Sto. Tomas the following years. Meanwhile, without the Cameroonian powerhouse, the Taft-based team fell short of the playoffs the following years. Now, the green and white is trying to barge back into the playoff picture with a fourth coach in four years. It is far from a certainty that Louie Gonzalez, who replaced Aldin Ayo, would be able to hold off Gian Nazario - and active consultant Jermaine Byrd - and then Derrick Pumaren if he had led La Salle to the Final Four in UAAP 81. What is a certainty, however, is that with Mbala back in the fold, they are locks for the Final Four. And so, what if "Big Ben" played his last year in La Salle? Ateneo would remain the top-seed while Adamson University would fall to three and the University of the Philippines would fall to four. Mbala and company would then stake claim to the second-seed and the twice-to-beat advantage it entails before taking care of business yet again against the Soaring Falcons. In the other bracket, the Blue Eagles end the Cinderella story of the Fighting Maroons who would play in their first Final Four in 21 years, but would still be looking for their first Finals since 1986. With that, the rivalry trilogy would be set in motion - Ateneo-La Salle for all the glory for the third year in a row. And for the 6-foot-8 center, the rubber match would have been theirs. Asked in the inaugural episode of The Prospects Pod if they would have reclaimed the title if he had played his last year, he answered, "Yeah. I think so." Our own thought experiment, however, thinks otherwise and has the Blue Eagles getting the better of the Green Archers once more. The arrival of Rookie of the Year Ange Kouame is a brand new tall task to face for Season MVP Mbala. Of course, the now-three-time MVP still finds a way against the inexperienced Ivorian, but Ateneo's total team effort would still prove to be too much for La Salle. According to Mbala, if he had stayed, Ricci Rivero would have stayed as well and not taken his talents to UP. That means that Brent Paraiso would remain as well. A core of Mbala, Rivero, Paraiso, Andrei Caracut, Aljun Melecio, and Santi Santillan would be really nasty, but that also means Justine Baltazar would not get the room he needs to grow. They would fight with their all, for sure, but would also ultimately succumb to the Blue Eagles' otherworldly - and quite frankly, unfair - depth and balance. In the end, Ateneo still goes on to a three-peat, and counting, while La Salle just falls short for the second straight year. Mbala moves on to showcasing his skills overseas - and moves on to ribbing Kiefer Ravena that it's just a matter of time before the butt heads in the PBA. There would also be no more questions about how Kouame would have fared against the Green Archers' best foreign student-athlete. For his part, however, Mbala said that individual comparisons do not matter in basketball. "People tell me that I were there, it would (have been) a different story, but I don't do comparisons. It's not a one-on-one game, it's five-on-five," he said. He then continued, "It was not I will take the rebound and do everything I want. No, it's not that. It's not about the size, it's about the system." --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 10th, 2020

SUPER SHOWDOWN: rookie EJ Laure vs. rookie Eya Laure

University of Sto. Tomas fans waited a long time to see sisters EJ and Eya Laure play together for the Tigresses after their explosive tandem won it all for the school during their stint with the girls' team. UAAP Season 82 saw the reunion of the Laure sisters albeit brief – two games to be exact – before the tournament was scrapped because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  One could just imagine what impact the Laure siblings would have brought to the Tigresses if not for the cancellation of the season. Skills-wise, both can contribute on points as well as provide support on defense. They have already proven it during their respective rookie seasons. In fact, both earned Rookie of the Year awards. But which Laure played better in her maiden stint with the black and gold? For this week’s ‘Super Showdown: Volleyball edition’, we compare the two well-rounded siblings based on their offense and defense, impact, competition and lasting impression for the Tigresses.        OFFENSE AND DEFENSE EJ brought the much-needed firepower for the then Odjie Mamon-mentored Tigresses in Season 77. In her first year, EJ averaged 11.7 points per game while providing help on net and floor defense. However, her main role in that UST batch was to contribute on points at the wing. She had a 32.17% success rate in attacks. On the defensive side, EJ contributed 13 kill blocks while playing a decent role on floor defense.     Eya, on the other hand, gave UST an added scoring option to a squad that already had veteran Sisi Rondina and 6-foot-2 Milena Alessandrini.     Eya averaged 16.4 points per outing behind Rondina’s 18.5 points per game in the elimination round of Season 81. Eya placed second in UST kill blocks with 19 during the elims behind Kecelyn Galdones’ 23. Eya also punched in 35.90% of her attacks.    TEAM IMPACT EJ gave UST faithful a ray of light when the highly-recruited talent decided to remain with UST after powering the Junior Tigresses to the girls’ title the year before.   The Season 76 Girls’ MVP adjusted well with setter Alex Cabanos and showed good chemistry with veterans Pam Lastimosa, Mela Tunay and Ria Meneses. EJ’s presence also brought back the UST crowd that in the past two years slowly dwindled after lumbering at fifth and sixth place in Season 75 and 76, respectively. Just like her older sister, Eya brought excitement to the Tigresses supporters. UST was then coming off its worst finish in decades – landing at seventh place in Season 80. Eya, Rondina and Alessandrini formed the deadly trio that brought great promise for UST heading into the season. The former high school MVP, Best Setter and two-time Best Opposite Spiker winner did not disappoint right from her debut game.   COMPETITION Although the favorite for the RoY award, EJ had to contend with one of league’s best batch of rookies. She played alongside another promising freshman in Rondina, who delivered UST’s first gold medal of the season in beach volleyball while bagging the rookie of the year and MVP awards. Ateneo had a prized recruit in middle Bea de Leon while De La Salle University's rookies were Eli Soyud and Aduke Ogunsanya. Far Eastern University also introduced solid young guns in ChinChin Basas, Heather Guino-o and Jerrili Malabanan. National University had Jorelle Singh and University of the Philippines got then rookie libero Ayel Estranero. Adamson University recruited a solid middle in Joy Dacoron while University boasted of skilled newcomers in libero Kath Arado and Judith Abil. EJ did pocket the RoY award as expected. But for the first time in the last two decades EJ shared the recognition with another impressive freshman in Arado – the first libero to receive the award since Mel Gohing of DLSU in Season 71. Just like her older sister, Eya came in as the odds-on favorite for RoY, considering the implementation of the K-12 education program. However, she still had to work to lay her claim. Eya faced her high school rivals Princess Robles, Ivy Lacsina of Jen Nierva of National University. Jolina Dela Cruz made immediate impact as DLSU’s leading scorer while Far Eastern University got Lycha Ebon, who unfortunately had her rookie year cut short after sustaining a knee injury.   LASTING IMPRESSION While EJ did give UST the boost it needed, the Tigresses still closed Season 77 outside of the top four. UST finished the elimination round with 6-8 win-loss record tied with FEU at fourth to fifth spot. Actually, UST came one set win away to a bus ride to the stepladder semifinals. EJ in the most important game for the Tigresses went cold, scoring only five points in just three sets of action. She started in the first two frames that UST yielded, sat out the third and fourth sets with Rondina playing better, before playing off the bench in the fifth.       It would take EJ two more years for a taste of a Final Four appearance. Unfortunately, EJ suffered a shoulder injury that forced her to sit out two seasons. Eya was a vital cog in the Tigresses’ rise in Season 81. She was consistent and her all-around game was a plus for the Kungfu Reyes-mentored team, which closed the elims with a 10-4 mark tied with the Lady Spikers. Eya’s heroics during the playoff against DLSU for the semis twice-to-beat advantage, where she dropped 17 points in the Tigresses’ four set win, pushed UST on the brink of ending an eight-year Finals stint drought. Eya erupted for 25 points in the Final Four to dethrone the four-peat seeking Lady Spikers in five sets. She backed Rondina in UST shocking Game 1 sweep of Ateneo in Game 1 of the Finals. Eya also showed big heart and great character in Games 2 and 3 despite playing hurt only to close her first year with a heartbreak after losing to the seasoned Lady Eagles. She averaged 10.6 points per game in the Finals.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 8th, 2020

BATCH CLASH: Season 76 Bulldogs vs Season 81 Bulldogs

Seven years ago, National University made history by claiming its breakthrough UAAP men’s volleyball title. The following season, the Bulldogs blasted their way to back-to-back titles. It took NU four years to return on top after snapping Ateneo de Manila’s three-season reign before duplicating a repeat championship the following year. Two different breeds of Bulldogs will take center stage in this week’s edition of Batch Clash as we pit the back-to-back NU champion teams of Season 76 and Season 81. Just like in the past showdowns, we’ll see which team will shine brighter based on offense, net defense, floor defense, level of competition and playoff performances. Then, we'll let you decide which batch is better.   OFFENSE Height, speed and power. That’s the name of the game for the Bulldogs. Both teams took advantage of these strengths to extend their respective reigns. Batch 76 had Reuben Inaudito, Edwin Tolentino, Peter Torres and Berlin Paglinawan while Batch 81 featured the high-flying Bryan Bagunas, Nico Almendras and James Natividad. With the departure of Ateneo’s Marck Espejo, Bagunas dominated the scoring category in Season 81. The 6-foot-5 open spiker averaged 20.3 points per game in his swan song. Bagunas was also hitting with precision, nailing 53.49% success rate in attacks while landing an average of 0.47 ace per frame. Bagunas had a steady back-up with Almendras averaging 10.2 points per game while Natividad normed with nine markers per outing. Natividad had a 42.92% spike success rate and averaged 0.24 ace per set while Almendras had a 38.93% attacking rate.   Compared to Batch 81, the Bulldogs of Season 76 had more balanced scoring. Inaudito averaged 12.1 points per game with a 40.18% success rate in kills and an average of 0.23 ace per frame. Paglinawan averaged 11.5 points per game, Torres had 10.3 markers per outing while Tolentino normed 9.8 points. Tolentino was hitting 36.14% with a 0.31 average ace per set.   In the setters’ head-to-head match-up, Vince Mangulabnan was dishing out an average of 6.75 excellent sets per frame while Owa Retamar had 7.40 assists per set. Incidentally, both NU playmakers finished second in the category to Ateneo setters Ish Polvorosa and Lawrence Magadia, in their respective seasons. As a team, Batch 76 had a 41.96% success rate in spikes and landed an average of 1.17 aces per set. Batch 81 recorded a 45.82% success rate in attacks with 1.27 aces per frame. In setting, Batch 76 tallied 6.98 average excellent sets per frame compared to Batch 81’s 7.84.   NET DEFENSE      In the battle of defensive walls, Batch 76 had three players in the top 10. Torres averaged 0.69 kill blocks per set, Reyson Fuentes had 0.62 while Inaudito posted 0.54. Batch 76 normed 3.10 kills blocks per frame. Taking care of business at the net for Batch 81 were Francis Saura (0.62), Kim Malabunga (0.49) and Almendras (0.47). Batch 81 averaged 2.80 kill blocks per set.   FLOOR DEFENSE Floor defense wasn’t really the strong suit of NU ever since. Both batches did struggle when their net defense didn't work the way they wanted it to. Batch 76 was dead last in digs as a team with just 3.87 digs per set and its reception wasn’t impressive either with just a 21.29% efficiency. Libero Mark Dizon of Batch 76 averaged 1.27 digs per set and a 29.74% efficiency in reception. Batch 81 averaged 11.24 digs per set with a decent 55.61% efficiency rate in reception. However, unlike Batch 76, the Season 81 Bulldogs didn’t rely too much in their libero for digs. Ricky Marcos had 3.51 digs per set and was backed by Natividad’s 2.42. Marcos had a 62.20% reception efficiency.     LEVEL OF COMPETITION Batch 76 saw the rise of what would become one of the most explosive and well-rounded players in the UAAP in years. Ateneo’s then rookie Espejo made an immediate impact in his first year together with Blue Eagles Rex Intal and Ysay Marasigan. University of Sto. Tomas had that season’s top scorer Mark Alfafara, Romnick Rico and Anthony Arbast. Bannering Adamson University were Michael Sudaria and Bryan Saraza while Red Christensen and Raymark Woo led De La Salle University. Far Eastern University had Ian Dela Calzada, Greg Dolor and Alexis Faytaren. University of the Philippines was spearheaded by Evan Raymundo and Jeffrey Lansangan; while University of the East had Angelone Soria and Ace Mandani. Batch 81 also battled against a strong field with FEU’s Jude Garcia and JP Bugaoan; Ateneo’s Tony Koyfman and Ron Medalla; Paolo Pablico and George Labang of Adamson; Chris Dumago and Billie Anima of DLSU; UST’s Joshua Umandal and Wewe Mendina; Mark Millete and Jerry San Pedro of UP and the pair of Cliffor Inoferio and Lloyd Josafat of UE.      PLAYOFF PERFORMANCE Batch 76 finished the elimination round with a 12-2 win-loss record for the top seed. The Season 76 Bulldogs swept Adamson, which had to defeat DLSU in the playoff for no. 4, in the Final Four to face a young Ateneo side. In the Finals, the seasoned NU squad bullied its way to series sweep of the Blue Eagles as the Bulldogs won their second title. Batch 81 started off on the wrong foot, dropping their first game against the Tamaraws. The Bulldogs bounced back from a bad start to win their next 13 games to take the top seed in the Final Four. They ran over Adamson in straight sets in the semis before crushing the Tams in two games in the Finals rematch of the two proud teams six years the making.   VERDICT Who do you think is the better Bulldogs squad?   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 4th, 2020

Morado recalls De Leon’s big role in Lady Eagles perfect Season 77

Jia Morado shared how the then rookie Bea De Leon’s quick return from a finger injury turned out to be a pivotal moment for the Ateneo de Manila University’s perfect run back in UAAP Season 77 women’s volleyball tournament. The former Lady Eagles setter recalled how De Leon’s presence helped Ateneo complete an elimination round sweep for an outright Finals seat five years ago during an episode of The Score’s Kalye Confessions .      “’Dun ko nakita kung gaano ka-passionate si Bea sa volleyball,” said Morado as she talked about the middle blockers rookie season. The Poveda product was a vital cog for the then repeat-seeking Lady Eagles. Ateneo was on a ten-game winning streak when De Leon sustained an injury while training in February 2015. De Leon suffered an open dislocation on her left index finger while trying to block an attack from then fellow rookie Maddie Madayag. “Ang dami talagang nangyari doon sa rookie year n’ya,” said Morado. “Kasama na doon na-injure ang daliri nya, na na-injure sa training at akala namin na di siya makakabalik for a long time sa games namin.” De Leon was out for two weeks and missed three games before making her return in the crucial end of elims match against archrival De La Salle University. “Sobrang crucial pa naman ng mga games namin noon and in the run for rookie of the year pa naman sana siya noon,” said Morado of De Leon, who was beaten by University of Sto. Tomas’ EJ Laure and University of the East libero Kath Arado for the Rookie of Year award. “So kami parang ‘Sayang, sobrang sayang.’” “(But) she cut her recovery short para makalaro sa Ateneo-La Salle game,” added Morado. The playmaker also lauded De Leon’s dedication that season as she opted not to undergo surgery but instead just had her finger stitched as she rested for a couple of weeks. De Leon, whose finger was heavily bandaged, was a surprise starter in the match against the Lady Spikers. “’Yun bumalik siya ng maaga kahit naka-tape pa ng sobra ang daliri niya,” Morado said. “Ang laking risk nun for her kasi kapag natamaan yun masama lalala ang injury niya but she played the game of her life nu’ng bumalik siya.” Her presence gave Ateneo a big boost in the all-important match that the Lady Eagles won in four sets, 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 27-25. De Leon finished with 11 points including three kill blocks to back Alyssa Valdez, who scored 29 markers. With De Leon back in the fold, the Lady Eagles went on to write history as they defeated DLSU in the Finals to retain their crown in a perfect 16-0 season sweep.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 27th, 2020

WHAT IF… Bea De Leon missed the rest of Season 77?

Ateneo de Manila University achieved perfection in UAAP Season 77 after the Lady Eagles swept their way to a second straight women’s volleyball title. Stacked with powerful hitters in Alyssa Valdez, Michelle Morente, Ella de Jesus and Jho Maraguinot, Ateneo’s offense was unstoppable. The Katipunan-based squad also had prized setter Jia Morado and libero Denden Lazaro with veteran middle Amy Ahomiro. But another vital cog that made Ateneo a super team that year was the presence of rookie middle Bea De Leon. The former Poveda standout earned a starting spot in the Tai Bundit-mentored team, which the year before completed a Cinderella story with a championship.    De Leon proved her worth and even had a strong case for the coveted Rookie of the Year award. She was having a splendid season until she was forced to miss three games after suffering a finger injury during practice with Ateneo already in a 10-game romp. De Leon chose to just have her left index finger stitched and have therapy than go under the knife. She returned just in time for the pivotal end of the elimination round match against archrival De La Salle University. Getting the green light to play on the eve of the game, De Leon was surprised as she was included in the starting line-up and she did not disappoint.       De Leon, who risked aggravating her heavily bandaged finger, scored 11 points including three kill blocks in the Lady Eagles’ 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 27-25, victory that sent Ateneo straight to the Finals with a thrice-to-beat advantage. From there, Ateneo made history. But what if De Leon underwent surgery? One thing is for sure, De Leon would be out of commission for an extended period if not for the remainder of the season. Without her, Ateneo would surely be in a precarious situation in that decisive end of the elims match against the Lady Spikers. Taking down DLSU won’t be easy for the Lady Eagles to begin with. In their first meeting, Ateneo had to come back from a set down to outlast DLSU in a five sets match. Without De Leon, Coach Tai would be forced to put in either veteran but seldom-used Aeriel Patnongon or another rookie Maddie Madayag to help Ahomiro. Both rode the bench in the first Ateneo-DLSU encounter. DLSU, which was coming off a six-game win run, would be in a favorable position to exploit its height advantage and would’ve had an open sky for the Lady Spikers’ hitters.    And if DLSU won that game against an Ateneo squad missing its starting middle, that would put the semifinals in the usual Final Four format. The Lady Eagles will still have a twice-to-beat advantage and would still overpower Far Eastern University. As for DLSU, coming off a win over Ateneo, the Lady Spikers would be in high spirits against National University. The twice-to-beat Lady Spikers might not need to go to a do-or-die decider against the Lady Bulldogs. Probably, DLSU would have been spared of losing its best scorer Ara Galang from a harrowing knee injury. Of course, the Finals would’ve been a different story. Ateneo will be missing De Leon’s Finals average of eight points per game and a vital piece both on offense and defense.       But then again, the Lady Eagles still had its ace Valdez and their reliable wings to take care of the scoring as well as the steady Ahomiro. We can never know what the outcome of that Finals series would have been if De Leon missed the rest of the season. But we can surely say that De Leon’s return from that finger injury proved to be a decisive moment in the Lady Eagles' historic perfect season.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 27th, 2020

UAAP Season 82 volleyball tidbits

The UAAP cancelled Season 82 after the government extended the enhanced community quarantine amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic putting an abrupt end to centerpiece second semester sport volleyball. The crowd-drawing tournament ran for just a week or a total of four playdates. It was disappointingly short but the season proved to be an exciting one with memorable matches, performances and moments. Here are some of them:   DELAYED OPENING The tournament was supposed to open February 15, but was pushed back two weeks after the government confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in the country.  Interestingly, the UAAP on its first-ever second semester press conference on February 11 announced the original schedule to push through only to call a postponement of all sporting events a day after.      FIRST SEASON 82 MATCH The men’s match of University of East and Far Eastern University opened the season on March 3 with a gate attendance of 908 spectators. It was a one-sided affair with the Tamaraws scoring a 25-10, 25-22, 25-23, win. Rookie JJ Javelona made a great introduction, finishing with 11 points with all but one coming off attacks, while senior Peter Quiel had 10 markers.       LAST MATCH University of Sto. Tomas and FEU played what turned out to be the last game of the season on March 8. The Tigresses swept the Lady Tamaraws, 25-20, 25-16, 25-18, with sisters Eya and EJ Laure scoring 16 and 12 points, respectively.   RESULTS  The NU Lady Bulldogs defeated the UST Tigresses in the lone five-set match in the women’s division. Four games were decided in straight sets while two were concluded in four frames. Adamson U played only one match and was the only team which failed to win a set.  In men’s play, FEU beat UST in five sets in the only match that went the full distance. There were four matches that ended in straight sets and two in four frames. DLSU and Adamson played only one game each and both lost in straight sets.    HIGHEST SINGLE-GAME SCORING OUTPUT University of the Philippines senior Isa Molde scored the most points in a single game in the women’s division this year with 24. Molde had 18 kills, four kill blocks and a couple of aces in a four-set victory over the UE Lady Warriors.  Red Warrior Lloyd Josafat held the highest single-game scoring output in men’s play with 32 points in a four-set win over UP. The sophomore hammered 28 attacks with three kill blocks and an ace     CROWD-DARLING Fighting Maroon Louis Gamban became the talk of the town after an inspired debut for UP. The recruit from University of Perpetual Help powered the Fighting Maroons to a straight sets upset win over Ateneo de Manila University. He backed his court sass and swag with an amazing performance both on offense and defense   BIGGEST GATE ATTENDANCE As expected, the first meeting between reigning women’s champion Ateneo and DLSU drew the biggest live audience in Season 82. A 12,907-strong crowd filled the MOA Arena forming a sea of blue and green despite the then rising threat of the COVID-19 outbreak.     FIRST VIDEO CHALLENGE The UAAP introduced the use of video challenge in Season 82. However, the technology was unavailable during the first playdate of the season because of technical problems. The NU Bulldogs had the honor of calling the first-ever video challenge on March 8 in their game against UST. NU head coach Dante Alinsunurin called for a net violation challenge in the first set with the Bulldogs protecting a 20-19 advantage. The challenge was unsuccessful but NU went on to claim the win in four sets.          LAST POINT Tigresses hitter Blove Barbon pounded the last point of the season in UST’s dominating win over the Lady Tamaraws. Barbon hammered a backrow attack off a Maji Mangulabnan set to break the FEU’s three-woman wall to cap off the match.        --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: lifestyleSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 10th, 2020