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Lady Spikers bag La Salle’s first beach volleyball title

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After starting the season shakily, DLSU’s Kim Fajardo and Cyd Demecillo rode a late surge of wins to bring their program its first UAAP Beach Volleyball title, eliminating Ateneo in the Final Four then sweeping FEU in the Finals yesterday at the Sands by the Bay.

The Lady Spikers ended Saturday with a tough loss to Ateneo’s Alyssa Valdez and Bea Tan who forced a do-or-die match to kick off the final day of competition. Though both squads surrendered several errors, the Lady Spikers eeked out a close 20-22, 21-17, 16-14 victory early in the morning. The Lady Eagles struggled to field in their services but the Lady Spikers had a tougher time coordinating their attacks in the first set, putting them in an early hole. Demecillo and Fajardo, however, settled down and minimized their mistakes in the following sets while Ateneo continued to cough up errors. The Lady Spikers built a comfortable lead then forced a third set where they vaulted ahead, 11-7, with the Lady Eagles continuing to pad their lead with unforced errors. Valdez and Tan, however, had one more comeback in them trimming La Salle’s lead immediately then forcing a deuce. Fajardo scored off a powerful smash to gain advantage then Alyssa Valdez ended the match and her season with an attack thet failed to cross the net, marking La Salle’s third win in their four matches with the Lady Eagles in the tournament.

The Lady Spikers then swept their best-of-three Finals series against FEU’s Bernadette Pons and Kyla Atienza, who tore through La Salle in the elimination round. The Lady Spikers quelled the Lady Tams, 21-17, 16-21, 15-12 in Game One then pounced on the weary Lady Tams in Game Two, 21-16, 25-23. Pons and Atienza had demolished opponents with their powerful serving and creative attacks but La Salle imposed their game plan from the first point. The Lady Spikers targeted Kyla Atienza, a libero in the indoor competition, and forced her to attack. Atienza usually dealt with being targeted by attacking off the first touch or producing great dig passes so Pons could attack off the second touch. But La Salle limited those opportunities in both their Finals games and kept their energy up throughout the matches despite having played more games and just coming off a late game in the PSL. Both Demecillo and Fajardo kept an unrelenting pace with their loaded, target serves and varied attacks.

Before today, La Salle’s best finish in either Men’s of Women’s competition was the Lady Spikers’ silver medal finish last season where Demecillo and Fajardo lost in the Finals against UST’s Cherry Rondina and Rica Rivera.

Surviving do-or-die matches against Rondina and Rivera as well as their heated rivals from Loyola, the pair of La Sallians admitted that those trials made their championship all the more sweeter.

“I wasn’t expecting [to win the championship] talaga kasi noong first few games namin last week naunahan kami agad ng talo. Siguro tiyanaga na lang namin hanggang makarating kami sa Finals… Sobrang saya, [kung iisipin yoong] lahat ng pagod, lahat ng init na dinaanan namin. Sobrang worth it,” Demecillo lamented adding that she barely got any sleep before the day. Demecillo had played her final beach volleyball match in college as she has used up her playing years.

“‘Yun naman ‘yung goal namin, siyempre lahat naman ng team ang goal ‘yung championship, since nakuna namin, siyempre buong La Salle community masaya na din,” Fajardo said adding that this was her final run at beach volleyball despite still having one more playing year.

“‘Nung una, 0-2 kami. So sinabi namin na ‘La Salle tayo, hindi tayo pwede na ganito. Dapat may patunayan tayo,” Fajardo continued also mentioning that she wanted to win to give her younger teammates that will be competing without the veterans in the Uni Games inspiration to win a championship themselves.

Kim Fajardo also won the tournament’s MVP Award, her first such plum in her collegiate career. NU’ s Jasmine Nabor took home ghe Rookie of the Year award.

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball – from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado’s setting.

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FEU

Rose Vargas all set for UAAP return after four-season absence

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In an unprecedented move, hard-hitting Far Eastern University spiker Rose Vargas will return to finish her UAAP career when Season 80 kicks off on February 3 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

Vargas last played for the Lady Tamaraws in Season 75. With a year of eligibility left, Vargas left the Morayta-based program to focus on her academics and pursue a career in the semi-pro ranks.

Five years since her last UAAP game, Vargas says that she did not hesitate when FEU officials asked if she wanted to return to play out her final year of eligibility.

During her time in the V-League, she played for the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns, the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors, the Bureau of Custom Transformers, and, most recently, the Creamline Cool Smashers.

“‘Yung pag-babalik naman dito (FEU) is hindi ko naman pinag-isipan matagal or nag-dalawang isip ako,” said the Season 74 Best Scorer. “Noong tinanong lang sa akin kung gusto ko daw bumalik, ang sagot ko lang, oo.

“Kasi gusto kong makatulong, and gusto kong makuha ‘yung championship namin na matagal ng hindi nakukuha ng FEU.”

Vargas adds to an already solid FEU core which includes graduating captain Bernadeth Pons, Toni Rose Basas, and Jerrili Malabanan.

The last time Vargas suited up for FEU, she was the main piece to a core that included Mari Toni Basas — Toni Rose’s older sister, a young Remy Palma, Gyzelle Sy, and Tin Agno.

Vargas now sees herself as more of a complimentary piece, the hardened veteran looking to guide FEU’s younger guns in a season where much if expected of them.

“Ngayon, nadagdagan siguro yung maturity and ko, pagiging veteran daw, sabi, na pwede ko mai-share din sa mga bata ‘yun, as a leader, as an ate,” added Vargas.

“Nako-contribute ko kung anong knowledge ang natutunan ko.”

League insiders are confident that Vargas, who turned 25-year-old on December 12 last year, will be declared eligible to play in Season 80. Although the UAAP is yet to have their eligibility meeting this week, a source closely monitoring the situation expressed confidence that Vargas will pass the league’s eligibility rules.

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Basketball

23 for 2023 cadet CJ Perez honored to help out Gilas

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Having had the chance to represent the Philippines in FIBA-sanctioned cagefests such the Asia Challenge Cup and the 3X3 All-Stars back in 2016, Lyceum Pirates star CJ Perez is no stranger to the international stage.

But the 24-year-old do-it-all swingman admits that he still gets overwhelmed whenever he sees his seniors — the stars and pillars of the program — in the team. “Nasusurprise [pa rin] ako,” he said. “Mga professionals eh.

“Na-istarstruck pa rin ako sa kanila.”

Perez said so when he finally made his return within Gilas’ realms last Monday night. The last time he was with the National Team was in August 2016, when the SBP built an amateur-laden batch of Gilas cagers that served as the transition from the 2016 Olympic Qualifiers squad to the 2017 SEABA team.

“Sobrang grateful ako (sa invitation),” said the talented six-foot-two guard, after practice at the Meralco Gym.

The reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player is back in the fold for Gilas as his name, along with young, up-and-coming stars, was included in the 23 for 2023 pool — a list of cagers projected to be the contingent for the Manila-hosted World Cup.

“Iniisip ko yun (FIBA World Cup 2023) simula magtawag sila ng practice. Actually nandoon na yung utak ko eh,” the Lyceum Pirate ace bared. “Kailangan ko lang mag work hard pa para makapasok dun sa lineup na yun, kahit malayo pa.

“It’s an honor para ma-represent yung country.”

Unlike in 2016, Perez graced the court and took part in drills with the veterans such as Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, among others. With those type of players around him, he feels that the lessons he can get will be limitless.

“Oo sobra. Kahit kanino naman (matututo ka talaga),” Perez shared. “(At tsaka) Dito parang more on sa mental. ‘Di na iniisip yung conditioning kasi may ibang teams naman sila so about sa mental toughness [talaga].”

For now, the 23 for 2023 cadets are already working out not just for familiarity, but also to help the seniors in preparing for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers this February.

“Sobrang happy and grateful na nakakatulong ako sa kanila kahit sa simpleng practice lang.”

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ABL

Blistering Mikey Williams takes home Heritage Import of the Week honor

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Photo from ASEAN Basketball League

The resurgent Saigon Heat have been the thorn to topflight clubs teams Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club and Nanhai Kung Fu, handing both squads their first losses in the eighth season of the ASEAN Basketball League. The Heat would not have done it without Filipino-American import Mikey Williams.

Williams, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Cal State Fullerton, dropped 39 points on 14-for-25 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and nine assists in Saigon’s 121-115 overtime win over Hong Kong.

The former NBA G-Leaguer followed it up with a sensational 24-point, five-rebound, and seven-assist outing in their 96-93 win over Kung Fu.

Overall, the 26-year-old guard averaged 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 1.0 steals to edge out fellow Filipino AJ Mandani of the Singapore Slingers for the weekly award.

For the Local Player of the Week, two Alab Pilipinas stalwarts were the runners-up for the crown.

Reigning local Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and his floor general Josh Urbiztondo had stellar weeks that earned them honorable mentions.

Parks averaged 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists for the week that saw Alab lose to the Slingers at home last Wednesday before bouncing back on the road against the Mono Vampire last Sunday.

Urbiztondo, on the other hand, had norms of 14.5 points on a hot 9-for-17 clip from downtown.

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Football

Brazilian football legend Zico to visit Manila

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Contributed photos

One of the best to ever play the Beautiful Game is coming to the Philippines. Zico, who electrified the footballing world in the ’70s and ’80s, is slated to visit Manila on the weekend of January 27.

The Brazilian, whose real name is Arthur Antunes Coimbra, is considered one of the best footballers in the world during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Zico starred for the Brazilian national team, scoring 48 goals in 71 appearances for the Selecao. In 1999, the attacking midfielder came 8th in the FIFA Player of the Century grand jury vote, and in 2004 was named in FIFA’s list of the world’s greatest living players.

Zico played for legendary Brazilian club Flamengo and also for the Italian Serie A team Udinese. He finished his playing career suiting up for Kashima Antlers in the J-League, the top tier of Japanese football, leading them to an unlikely runner-up finish.

The 64-year-old also had a successful managerial career, leading Turkey’s Fenerbahce, Greek team Olympiacos, and CSKA Moscow to titles. Zico was also in charge of the Japanese national team when they won the AFC Asian Cup in 2004. Because of that accomplishment, Zico is one of the most beloved football figures in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Seven Seas Properties, a company that promotes Philippine real estate and Philippine stocks in the Japanese market, is bringing the football icon here.

“We are delighted to welcome Zico to the Philippines. I’m sure he will give a big boost to the growing football scene here,” says Seven Seas Properties President Yukihiro Nishimura.

Zico will attend a CSR event with young footballers from underprivileged communities on Saturday, January 27. The following day, Sunday January 28, he will lead a football clinic for elite young players and coaches in the McKinley Hill stadium in Taguig. Football fans and media are welcome to watch this event, which kicks off at 2:00 pm. Admission is free.

Zico in Manila is also made possible by Otsuka – Solar Philippines, Inter Sports Partners, AgriNurture, and Primex.

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