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DLSU

Lady Green Paddlers cap off comeback, remain as UAAP queens

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For three years, the De La Salle University Lady Green Paddlers have been dominant, winning one tie after another, until the very first tie of the UAAP LXXIX women’s table tennis finals happened.

The University of Santo Tomas Lady Tiger Paddlers pulled off what no team has done during that span, sending the defending back-to-back champions to the brink of losing the crown with the win in Tie 1.

Nonetheless, Jamaica Sy and the rest of reigning queens were able to pull it off as they remained defiant when it mattered, eventually completed the come-from-behind win in the series and reasserted their claim to the throne, Wednesday, at the Ateneo Blue Eagle Gym.

Tigresses stun Lady Archers, take Tie 1


Riding on the momentum of winning three ties in a row, the challengers UST shocked their opponents with a thrilling 3-2 win in Tie 1 of the Finals.

Kate Encarnacion commenced the upset with a grueling five-set decision over DLSU team captain Jamaica Sy in the first singles match. The Tomasina upstart took the first game at 11-5, before Sy clinched the next two at 11-8 and 11-3. With her calm and composed approach of the game, Encarnacion eventually completed her comeback to steal the match at 11-9, 12-10.

The reigning champions then threatened to take the win after Emy Rose Dael and doubles partner Ina Co and Mardeline Carreon took care of Katrina Tempiatura and the pair of Rachel Parba and Rizza Darlucio, respectively.

Last year’s Rookie of the Year Dael also took a marathon match of five sets and won over Tempiatura, 11-8, 9-11, 7-11, 11-5, 11-3. The La Salle duo then dominated the opposing pair in straight sets, 11-7, 11-6, 11-7.

Nonetheless, UST had other plans with their two best singles players still on deck to play.

Danica Alburo dominated newbie Chantal Alberto in three sets 11-9, 11-8, 11-4, to level the match. Nacasabog then finished of the come-from-behind win with a stunning win over graduating Donna Gamila, 11-9, 6-11, 11-8, 11-9.

The win put UST on the verge of ending the 13-year title drought, but La Salle stopped them on their tracks.

La Salle returns with a sweep, forces do-or-die tie


The defending champions La Salle regrouped and refocused after the stunning loss.

Skipper Sy shared, “Medyo naging blanko kami, pero I immediately told my teammates na, ‘This is a learning lesson. We’ve been through this; we’ve been through so many trials and all, konting kapit lang and push lang.’”

“We’re undefeated for a reason and that built us,” she added.

And the response was overwhelming.

It took just four players for the Lady Green Paddlers to take Tie 2 and even the series.

Dael started the sweep with another rout of Tempiatura, 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 in the first singles match. Sy then walked the talk in the second singles match after she outlasted Encarnacion in yet another five-setter, 10-12, 14-12, 2-11, 11-6, 11-7.

Co and Carreon then repeated against Parba and Darlucio with three similar sets of 11-8, sending the series to a winner-take-all tie.

Alberto averts upset, gives DLSU the three-peat


When everything is on the line, champions rise to the challenge.

Dael and Sy started the deciding tie with rousing victories in the first two singles matches.

The UAAP 78 Rookie of the Year shook off a close second-set loss to upend Darlucio at 11-2, 9-11, 11-6, 11-6. Dael had total control of the match from the get-go, but some errors, especially in that second frame, gave the opponent some lifeline. Nevertheless, the leads were too huge to overcome.

Sy then took care of Alburo in the second singles match. The DLSU captain zapped the energy of the second-year player from España after winning in four sets, 11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 13-11. The Lady Green Paddler threatened to end the match early in the fourth, before fending off the resilient Alburo to take the win.

UST then attempted to steal the tie and the title after winning the next two matches.

Encarnacion, who evidently saved her best table tennis for the series stunned another seasoned singles player in Donna Gamila to send the series into a deciding singles match.

The usual doubles tandem for UST in Parba and Tempiatura set the stage for Encarnacion’s heroics with a dominant win against Co and Carreon. The DLSU tandem kept the third set close, but the Tomasinas eventually prevailed with the sweep at 11-8, 11-8, 13-11.

Gamila, playing in her last UAAP match, almost gave the title to DLSU after getting two sets of the third singles match. After Encarnacion took the first set at 11-6, Gamila outlasted the former in the next two close sets at 12-10 and 13-11.

The graduating DLSU stalwart led at the start of the fourth set, but Encarnacion stormed back to get the frame and the next one in both 11-6 score lines. That left Alberto and Nacasabog to dispute the title in the fourth singles match.

Alberto cruised past the first set with a huge 11-2 win, but Nacasabog turned it up on defense in the next two frames.

With confidence building up, the UST paddler dominated the DLSU rookie 11-4 and 11-6 in the second and the third sets, respectively. However, she gassed out and Alberto sent the series into an ultimate decider in a fifth set with an 11-3 victory.

The two paddlers fought toe-to-toe in the final set as Alberto took the 5-4 lead at the change of ends. Nacasabog then regrouped and got to within three points of the title at 8-6. The DLSU rookie then stormed back to claim her first match point at 10-9, but Nacasabog hit a perfectly-timed smash to force deuce.

Nonetheless, Alberto let her defense dictate the pace, forcing Nacasabog to attack. One error and another one from the Tomasina sent her to tears as her opponent and the rest of La Salle celebrated their third straight UAAP title.

Lady Green Paddlers’ skipper Sy was elated of how they defended their title. She said, “Sobrang nakaka-overwhelm kasi kung nakita niyo, sobrang dikit talaga yung laban. Everybody deserved this championship, it’s just that mas naging lucky kami all throughout the [season].”

She also attributed the win to the support of everyone from the DLSU community. Sy continued, “We’ve been blessed. Sa mga games namin, nandyan yung mga alumni, nandyan yung coaches namin and all.”

Sy and the rest of the championship team dedicated this third straight title to their graduating senior Gamila, and alumna and Olympian Ian Lariba, who was present throughout the journey.

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Basketball

‘Transitioning’ La Salle asks Gilas not to put Green Archers in 23 for 2023 pool

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When the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas unveiled its wishlist for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, there were shoo-ins and surprises. The likes of Thirdy Ravena, Kobe Paras, Kai Sotto, CJ Perez, and Robert Bolick were considered as locks while Jeo Ambohot, J-jay Alejandro, and some of the Filipino-Americans were surprises.

However, just like any list, there were players that were left out.

This time around, two of them came from La Salle in sophomore Ricci Rivero and junior Andrei Caracut.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan has even been vocal in saying that he hopes Rivero makes the team.

“We have excellent college players,” he told Tiebreaker Times last December 14, 2017.

“This year we have Ricci Rivero of La Salle, Thirdy Ravena of Ateneo, Robert Bolick of San Beda, and CJ Perez of Lyceum.”

However, La Salle did not allow its players to join the 23 for 2023 pool, according to Gilas head coach Chot Reyes.

“The school has asked us not to include their players first because they’re in the process of transition,” the president of ESPN5 told Sportscenter, Friday evening.

Both Green Archers stalwarts though plan to join the pool once they get clearance.

“Ipipilit ko yan kahit anong mangyari kasi pangarap yan ng lahat ng player,” said an oblivious Rivero, who averaged 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.5 steals last season.

“Kaya lang, kung ayaw nila, wala akong magagawa.”

“Wala pa namang kumausap sa akin, pero siyempre, gusto ko,” added Caracut, who posted norms of 7.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists.

“Lahat ng players naman, gusto yun.”

The Green Archers want the transition from former head coach Aldin Ayo to incoming mentor Louie Gonzalez to be as smooth as possible. And this includes a favor asking the student-athletes to decrease their presence on social media for the time being.

For his part, Reyes stressed that nothing is final for the 2023 Gilas team as a lot of things can still happen in five years.

“This is a pool, this is a list and it doesn’t mean that these are players for 2023,” he shared. “There are still very young players in the current Gilas pool. What we are saying is this is the Gilas pool and the 23 for 2023, now you fight.

“It’s up to them to prove to us who belongs in the final roster.”

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Basketball

La Salle formally appoints Louie Gonzalez as Green Archers head coach

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There was no other sports figure that bogged the headlines this holiday season than Aldin Ayo.

Tiebreaker Times first reported the two-time collegiate mentor’s exit from De La Salle University last December 27, 2017 and followed it up with a story about Louie Gonzalez’s designation as the new coach of the school’s fabled Green Archers squad.

After all the stories released by the various media outlets, La Salle has finally broken its silence on the matter courtesy of a statement from the Office of Sports Development’s Twitter account.

“De La Salle University announces the appointment of Jose Luis Gonzalez III as head coach of the Men’s Basketball Team effective January 1, 2018.

“Prior to his post, coach Louie Gonzalez was the Green Archers’ deputy head coach for two years. He also served as an assistant coach of Letran and Far Eastern University as well as GlobalPort and KIA in the Philippine Basketball Association,” the statement read.

In addition, the institution remains grateful to the service rendered by Ayo.

“DLSU extends its deep appreciation to former head coach Aldin Ayo for his two years of dedicated service to the team.”

Gonzalez has big shoes to fill as his now predecessor won one UAAP championship and earned a win-loss record of 30 wins and just 5 losses in two seasons for the Green Archers.

Nevertheless, the former PBA assistant coach is said to be the main architect of Ayo’s Mayhem system. Their partnership has gone a long way ever since the duo’s Letran days when Gonzalez was an assistant coach while Ayo was a player.

Assisting Gonzalez will be Glenn Capacio, team B mentor Anton Altamirano and the returning Siot Tanquingcen.

Meanwhile, reports persist that Ayo is off to University of Santo Tomas alongside deputy McJour Luib.

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SMART Sports’ Best of 2017: Despite all the politics, volleyball will find a way

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With two club leagues, two prominent collegiate leagues, a national team campaign, and a beach volleyball circuit to keep track of, Philippine volleyball fans never truly get a break.

It seemed that for every month of 2017, there was some talking point that lit up social media. Whether it was a championship, off-court drama, or dueling officials, volleyball never truly stopped. It simply was propelled from one thing to the next.

In the following, we take a look back at the best storylines that volleyball blessed us with in 2017.

La Salle then, La Salle now, La Salle forever (or until RDJ retires)

Years from now, Season 79 will most likely be remembered for the epic Finals clash between the Ateneo de Manila University and the De La Salle University.

Despite this being their sixth straight clash on the biggest stage in local volleyball, both the Lady Spikers and Lady Eagles were ushering in new eras. The Ramil De Jesus-led squad had to find new pieces to replace their old reliables Mika Reyes, Ara Galang, and Cyd Demecillo; while Tai Bundit’s program had just entered the first year of the post-Alyssa Valdez era.

Like a post-apocalyptic cyborg, La Salle found new pieces in Tin Tiamzon, Aduke Ogunsanya, and fresh-from-an-ACL-tear Des Cheng, and convinced setting maestro Kim Fajardo to play out her final year of eligibility. As always, the Lady Spikers were a picture of balance, working out their weaknesses as the season went along and finding their peak at the perfect time.

Ateneo, on the other hand, proved that there was still something phenomenal in them even without the Phenom. Leaning on their supreme length and athleticism, the Lady Eagles overpowered opponents left and right. While fresh-from-academic-exile Michelle Morente, Jho Maraguinot, and Bea De Leon all stepped up their scoring to account for the Valdez-sized hole in their lineup, it was captain Jia Morado who truly came out of her shell. After all, there is something to be said about anchoring the league’s best offense while working with a bottom-two reception line.

While the Finals didn’t last until the final game of the season, like their past meetings, Ateneo and La Salle still managed iconic moments. La Salle, in the end, proved more prudent with their errors and steadier in the endgame to come away with a back-to-back.

Still, Season 80 was built up to possibly the first season without an Ateneo-La Salle finale. The University of the Philippines certainly seemed like a contender, starting the season with a 4-0 record and  a win against La Salle. The National University made their case after winning both their elimination round meetings with Ateneo.

In the end, both those squads sputtered out, and veteran-laiden teams University of Santo Tomas and Far Eastern University ended up taking the last two Final Four spots right in the final week of the elimination round.

Perhaps it is in the aftermath of Season 79 where La Salle shone brightest. The fact that they have not made any headlines after Season 79 might be worrisome to the uninitiated. But the longtime La Salle fan knows that this is just par-for-the-course for a Ramil De Jesus off-season.

La Salle have been stable and quietly building up a roster of recruits that will shock the league once Season 81 rolls around. For now, De Jesus has a stable core of Dawn Macandili, Kianna Dy, Majoy Baron, Des Cheng and Tin Tiamzon to work with for their three-peat bid come Season 80.

Considering the whirlwind off-season every other UAAP team had, the Lady Spikers are settled as early favorites.

Ateneo lost both Morado and Morente seemingly out of the blue, and went through a controversial break-up with Tai Bundit before University President Fr. Jett Villarin stepped in and seemingly forced them to make amends. UP, FEU, and National U all have new head coaches. UST, who were already going to play without Ria Meneses, have to find someone to fill in for top scorer Ej Laure, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

Season 80 will be De Jesus’ 20th season as mentor of the Lady Spikers. He’s gone up against the best players and coaches. Still, he remains on top of the UAAP.

Practice?

The perfect illustration of local volleyball’s volatility was last year’s National Team endeavors.

From the selection of the coaches down to the final match they played in the Southeast Asian Games, there was some measure of drama.

In the end, what the National Team lacked was consistency. Francis Vicente, the embattled coach who had his UAAP record slung at his face with every controversial statement he made, did his best but ultimately had his decisions nip him and the squad.

When the team was distilled from a pool of 25 down to the Final 14, there was considerable lack of Premier Volleyball League players and an abundance of Philippine Superliga talent. Perhaps the PSL does have a better overall pool of players, but there were certainly PVL players who could have helped the National Team, especially with their lack of open hitters.

The squad was also inconsistent with what they deemed acceptable. Even the routine practices became major talking points as, one day, only one player was notably missing preparations. The following month, 90 percent of the squad was absent due to club commitments.

Still, the Nationals provided us with a reason to be optimistic.

Although they finished just barely in the Top 8 of the Asian Senior Women’s Championship in Biñan, Laguna, they did cop a momentous win over Southeast Asian powerhouse Vietnam in the second group phase.

In the SEA Games, the women’s squad squeezed into the semifinals, but eventually fell to a determined Vietnam squad in the bronze medal match.

Dawn Macandili, the smallest player on the team, proved to be the biggest star after being named Asia’s Second Best Libero. Alyssa Valdez, Jaja Santiago, and Jovelyn Gonzaga all had standout performances as well on the international stage.

Considering all the off-court hoopla, 2017 was a much better National Team year than 2015. Not even looking at the squad’s finishes, the caliber of preparation was the best our National Team has had in decades.

The LVPI laid the groundwork in 2017. They need to keep grinding in 2018. There has been no news and assurance that Francis Vicente will be brought back as the head coach. If they are to name a new coach, they will most likely have another string tryouts to suit the system of the new head coach.

What volleyball needs is a Gilas-like program. It needs dedicated managers and coaches that have the National Team’s priorities first above anything else. It needs a pools of players for different age groups that will make the transition to the senior team much easier.

Gilas is not a perfect example, with its complicated relationship with the PBA and its stakeholders. But the Men’s National Basketball team has thrived over the past decade amidst all the controversy because of the bedrock that is Gilas.

In a volleyball utopia, the National Team would be in Ramil De Jesus’ hands with players always available due to cooperation of the club leagues with their scheduling.

We may never achieve utopia, but volleyball fans and supporters deserve to at least have very minimal politics in the sport we love.

Twice Thrice-Beaten

The most overlooked local league brought about another tension-filled season.

For the second straight year, the most compelling storyline was Grethcel Soltones’ chase for an indoor NCAA title. And for the second straight year, she led her San Sebastian College-Recoletos Lady Stags straight to the Finals with an unblemished elimination round record.

For the second straight year, the Lady Stags languished a thrice-to-beat advantage.

While San Sebastian had Grethcel Soltones, the NCAA’s best player for three straight years, the Arellano University Lady Chiefs had a more balanced lineup and divine motivation.

Led by Jovielyn Prado, Rialen Sante, and Regine Arocha — Season 92’s breakout star — the Lady Chiefs took three straight matches from the Lady Stags. More than winning their second title in three years, Arellano University wanted to bring home the championship for grieving head coach Obet Javier, who had just lost his wife.

With three NCAA MVP awards, Grethcel Soltones left Roger Gorayeb’s program as the first to never have won an indoor title.

Without Soltones, the NCAA also is left without an incredible singular talent. The Lady Chiefs look like runaway titlists. Teams like San Beda College and College of Saint Benilde have young talent and could contiue conteding for a championship. The Lady Stags, meanwhile, will reportedly have just eight girls on their roster.

What the NCAA lacks in superstars, they make up for with sheer intrigue.

PSL vs PVL

While competition can certainly breed talent, the battle between PSL and PVL brought about animosity rivaled only by the mishap in the PBA with Chito Narvasa and some PBA teams.

Both leagues certainly put up competitive conferences, but the way they dueled in public overshadowed the matches they showcased.

It began with the formation of the National Team, as one league seemingly had full control while the other barely had any representation in the tryouts and training.

Then it escalated when the PVL had trouble securing required documents for their imports to play in the Reinforced Conference and pinpointed PSL officials as conspirators against them.

Up to the Reinforced Conference semis, eventual champions Pocari Sweat had replacement import Krystal Rivers waiting until the very last minute, only to have her suit up in the Finals.

The rift between both leagues becomes intolerable when it affected the quality of volleyball, especially with the National Team. Both leagues and their officials bring something to the table when it comes to organizing volleyball leagues.

PSL, under the supervision of Tats Suzara, has constantly pushed the limits of innovation since they started four years ago. The league has brought in world-class players and officials.

Just this year, the league had three successful conferences in the Invitational Cup (where they brought in Japanese collegiate team Kobe Shinwa), the All-Filipino Cup, and the Chooks-to-Go Grand Prix.

The year eventually unfolded into a rivalry between juggenauts Petron and F2 Logistics. The deep Blaze Spikers got first blood in the AFC, but F2 Logistics ended the year with the league’s prized Grand Prix title.

The Final game of their season boasted unparalleled drama with F2 Logistics’ Venezuelan import Maria Jose Perez playing Game Three a day after her brother died of cancer. It also had the resurgence of Cha Cruz, who won the league’s first-ever Finals MVP plum.

The PVL, on the other hand, remained the steady institution it has always been since they started nearly 15 years ago. From its humble roots as the Shakey’s V-League, Ricky Palou’s tournaments have persisted even in the lowest, most dire of situations in Philippine volleyball.

With the country’s most prominent TV station showing their games, the PVL continues to flourish. 2017 saw the debut of Rebisco’s Creamline Cool Smashers, who showed they were serious contenders by signing top-caliber stars in Alyssa Valdez and Jia Morado.

At first, it seemed that Pocari Sweat had another double-crown in hand after a smashing triumph over the Bali Pure Water Defenders in the Reinforced Conference Finals.

The Lady Warriors were nearly booted in the Open Conference, if not for Heather Guino-O’s heroics in Game Two against Air Force, Pocari Sweat might as well have never made the Finals again.

Cherry Rondina is the queen of the sands

From a fringe sport, beach volleyball has grown to be the marquee place for where Filipinos can truly excel.

No one exemplifies this more than Sisi Rondina, who dominated the local sands in 2017. The UST Tigress started off with an unbeaten run in the PSL Challenge Cup with partner Bernadeth Pons of FEU. The Cebuana then lifted sophomore partner Caitlyn Viray to another unblemished conquest of the UAAP Season 80 Beach Volleyball tournament for her second straight collegiate title and third overall.

She and Pons also got a taste of international competition when they represented the country in the Southeast Asian Beach Volleyball Championship.

Standing at just five-feet-six-inches, Rondina overwhelms opponents with her ruthless quickness and uncanny leaping ability. No doubt she was this year’s Queen of the Sands, if there was one.

Perhaps, the most important development in 2017 for beach volleyball was continued persistence of Beach Volleyball Republic. BVR, which was established by passionate athletes Dzi Gervacio, Charo Soriano, and Bea Tan, continued with their nation-wide circuit and had another international level competition. They even established a Men’s circuit, which they had lacked in years prior.

Volleyball needs more determined people like those behind BVR, who continue to push boundries and move mountains just to keep alive the sport they love.

Coach O is Mr. 2017

Men’s volleyball continued to fly under people’s radar, which was a shame since 2017 was historic, especially for one coach Oliver Almadro.

While Ramil De Jesus continued to dominate the women’s, his former protege established his own dynasty throughout the year.

All the Men’s teams that Almadro coached won the championship.

In the UAAP, his Ateneo Blue Eagles completed a season-long sweep, fending off the determined National University Bulldogs in two classic matches in the Finals.

In the PVL Men’s Division, Almadro led the Cignal HD Spikers to the Open and Reinforced Conference championships, then anchored the Blue Eagles for a third consecutive Collegiate Conference crown.

Counting other leagues, the frenetic mentor barely lost a match. While it can be easily argued that it was his players that won the matches, it was Almadro’s unrelenting voice of guidance that helped establish his teams’ winning culture.

Almadro and men’s volleyball barely got any fanfare in 2017. A look at how little coverage the Men’s National Team got and one will find just how underapprecieated the men are.

It’s a miracle that the Men’s National Team even got to participate in the Southeast Asian Games, as head coach Sammy Acaylar and LVPI acting president Peter Cayco had to lobby heavily for the team to be considered competitive.

The men worked for everything they got, toiling away in the Arellano Law School Gym almost every day for the better part of five months.

While the men failed to even enter the SEA Games semifinals, they showed potential. That most of the roster were 25-years-old or younger should be considered, especially with the 2019 SEA Games right around the corner.

Like the women’s side, the men could also do with a lot less politics for 2018. Hopefully, they too get some sort of international exposure and continue to develop as a team.

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Basketball

Difference of views led to Aldin Ayo’s departure

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NCAA and UAAP champion coach Aldin Ayo finally broke his silence regarding his sudden departure from De La Salle University, Tuesday evening.

Via his Twitter account @AyoAV_Official, the controversial tactician shared that he kept mum during the holidays as he and the Green Archers camp had an agreement that the two parties have to remain silent regarding the matter.

“The reason why I kept mum is because of an agreement not to disclose any information before the first week of January or until the school makes its official statement,” the 40 year old mentor said.

“The two years I have spent with the Archers are two well-spent years indeed.”

Last December 27, Tiebreaker Times broke the news that Ayo has left La Salle on December 26 after making a commitment to the team last December 19. People close to Ayo have contested it, saying that he did not say such a thing. However, sources from La Salle stand firm that he vowed to continue coaching the Green Archers, including a standing offer to be the team’s head coach for the next four years.

Ayo explained his reason why he chose a different path.

“We have different views in handling the team. I’ve always done what is necessary.”

Still, he is grateful with the opportunity given to him by La Salle, saying that it was a “time well-spent”.

“Much gratitude to Boss (Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.), the Managers, School Heads, the De La Salle community, all of the Green Archers fans,” Ayo closed.

“The two years I have spent with the Archers are two well-spent years indeed.”

Under Ayo, the Green Archers compiled a 25-3 regular season record and an 5-2 slate in the post-season. It resulted in a UAAP championship in Season 79 and a silver finish a year later.

He neither confirmed nor denied his transfer to University of Santo Tomas.

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