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Lazaro on her beach volleyball debut, the UAAP, and BVR

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To the delight of her long-time fans, former Ateneo Lady Eagle Denden Lazaro stepped out after months of volleyball inactivity to participate in the Beach Volleyball Republic Women’s Open tournament last Saturday.

Lazaro had last played competitively for the PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters in the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference last June. Since then, Lazaro has been busy pursuing a Medical Degree.

Pairing up with her former Ateneo teammate, Fille Cainglet-Cayetano, the former UAAP Best Receiver and Digger beamed and let out giggles through all three of their matches for the day.

“Sobrang hinihingal ako,” Lazaro said laughingly. “Siguro ang huling ko pang hawak ng bola was two months ago, I’ve just been working out. Ngayon lang din kami nagkita ni Fille. But she’s been training for beach volley for the past weeks.”

Cainglet and Lazaro played valiantly but wound up with a 1-2 record in a highly-competitive Pool B, just out of the semifinals, after Day One.

Still, playing with Cayetano, Lazaro says, helped her enjoy her first time playing competitive beach volleyball and brought her back to their student-athlete days. “Back in Ateneo I used to just train with Alyssa (Valdez) and Bea (Tan) when they were preparing for UAAP but this was my first time playing competitively. Sobrang saya, especially playing with Fille. I really enjoyed playing with her in Ateneo and it’s great that I get to play with her again now. Sobrang saya niya maging teammate – we just have fun, no pressure, and she helped me a lot because I’m a noob with beach volley.”

Although Lazaro is still unsure of her plans regarding playing competitive volleyball after the tournament, she admittedly wants to help BVR by growing a beach volleyball culture locally. “I really want to help BVR in promoting beach volleyball here in the Philippines. They want to start a beach volleyball circuit here and also start a grassroots program to get a lot of kids into the sport which I think is very important. I really enjoy the sport and I think what they’re doing is great so I really want to help however I can.”

BVR-Lazaro

Next year also marks Lazaro’s first UAAP season out of college. The Lady Eagles are currently in their annual Thailand training camp to prepare for the UAAP grind – a trip which Lazaro says she misses most. “I definitely miss the rigorous trainings we had. Every day was such a challenge and we really worked hard to improve. I was texting with Ella (De Jesus) and we were talking about how we were going to feel once we watch a game. I definitely miss my teammates and the camaraderie we had,” Lazaro told adding that even if she hasn’t watched the current Lady Eagles play or train, she’s confident that they’ll be ready to defend the throne and earn a third consecutive title.

“With how hard Coach Tai’s (Bundit) trainings are, I think we’re always going to have a chance. I’m sure other teams prepare hard as well, but I have faith in the girls that they’ll do their best and they’re still going to be one of the best teams.”

The Lady Eagles will surely miss Lazaro’s defensive presence, as she had been one of the best liberos to hit the UAAP’s taraflex courts. Lazaro, however, is confident with whoever takes her spot as the Lady Eagles’ main back row player.

“They’re training Jamie Lavitoria and Gizelle Tan to take over. Regardless of whoever winds up starting, I think they’re going to do fine given how Coach Tai will train and prepare them. I got my confidence from all the training and preparation we did and I think they’ll be just as confident as I was when the season comes.”

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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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Basketball

Tireless J-Jay Alejandro heads from D-League game to Gilas training

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Former NU Bulldogs captain J-Jay Alejandro was at the Pasig Sports Center Monday afternoon, making his debut for the Go for Gold Scratchers. After their 75-68 win over Gamboa-St. Clare Coffee Lovers, he immediately packed his bags and headed for the exit.

Why was he in a rush? He did not want to be late for Gilas later on.

PHOTO by PBA Images

“Sayang, malapit na ako eh. Pasig lang. Walang showbiz-showbiz, malapit lang talaga,” shared Alejandro, who had five points, five rebounds, seven assists, and two steals for Go for Gold. “Wala rin akong gagawin kasi.

“Tsaka minsan lang magpa-tawag ng practice, every Monday lang, so sayang ‘yung chance makapag-practice.”

The 6-foot-2 combo guard was a much-needed body by the pool of Gilas as only eight players suited-up for Monday’s session. Besides helping out the seniors team, the 22-year-old is looking at the sessions as a way to not just improve but also get in touch with his former collegiate foes.

“Well, ganoon talaga eh. Player, mapapagod at mapapagod ka talaga,” said the All-UAAP team member.

“Pero nakakasama ko sila Arvin Tolentino, sila CJ Perez, tsaka ‘yung ibang mga PBA players, siyempre experience ‘yun eh, tsaka learning process din sa akin.”

Moreover, he knows that being under the tutelage of coach Chot Reyes will only do wonders for him, especially with the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft just months away.

“Mas pisikal talaga sa PBA. ‘Yun, kung paano mo gagamitin ang utak mo pati ‘yung katawan mo sa tamang posisyon sa laro, makukuha ko yun rito,” he said.

“Well sa akin kasi, ‘yung mapabilang ka sa Gilas, mapabilang lang ang pangalan mo sa Gilas, sobrang fortunate na ako, sobrang blessed na ako,” Alejandro added.

“And siguro sa akin, may opportunity na nag-open, so iga-grab ko na lang — either PBA or Gilas.”

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Basketball

Loaded Wangs-Letran wallops AMA in debut

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Armed with new recruits, the Wangs Basketball-Letran Knights embarked on its new chapter with a rousing 93-75 rout of the AMA Online Education Titans, Tuesday afternoon at the Pasig Sports Center.

Everyone clicked for the Couriers with Bong Quinto spearheading the blowout with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.

Newcomer Bonbon Batiller added 15 markers, five boards, and three dimes in his debut, while starting point guard JP Calvo chipped in 12 points, eight rebounds, and two assists.

Christian Fajarito also registered 11 markers and nine boards, while Alex Mandreza had 10 points for Wangs-Letran.

Despite the promising showing, coach Jeff Napa said that he still wants to see more from his Couriers moving forward.

“Masaya kami syempre dahil nanalo. Pero marami pa rin kaming kailangang gawin,” he said as he wanted more from the Knights after outrebounding the Titans, 57-44.

Quinto and Calvo triggered Wangs-Letran’s second quarter pullaway to establish the 38-26, lead which grew to as high as 22 points, 81-59 in the payoff period.

Michael Cañete topscored AMA with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Kris Porter had 13 in the defeat.

Wangs-Letran will have vengeance on their minds on Monday, January 29 when it takes on NCAA tormentors Che’lu- San Sebastian Revellers. AMA, on the other hand, will have a tough assignment when it takes on the Zark’s-Lyceum Jawbreakers on Thursday, January 25.

The Scores:

Wangs-Letran 93 — Quinto 19, Batiller 15, Calvo 12, Fajarito 11, Mandreza 10, Trinidad 8, Publico 6, Vacaro 4, Balagasay 3, Ambohot 3, Muyang 2.

AMA Online Education 75 — Cañete 20, Porter 13, Escalambre 11, Casiño 10, Antonares 6, Manalang 6, Garcia 4, Ng 3, Parcero 2, Bragais 0, Carpio 0, Paras 0, Raflores 0, Salonga 0.

Quarterscores: 16-13, 44-35, 67-52, 93-75.

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AU

Jovie Prado, Arellano make epic comeback against Perpetual to remain unscathed

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The defending NCAA Women’s Volleyball champions Arellano University Lady Chiefs would just not give up.

Down two sets, the Lady Chiefs turned back the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas in five thrilling sets, 22-25, 19-25, 25-21, 25-20, 15-5, Tuesday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

Outside hitter Jovielyn Prado and middle attacker Andrea Marzan showed up and produced their expected numbers in this crucial tussle at 20 and 16 points, respectively.

Head coach Obet Javier was still optimistic that his players could pull it off after the 0-2 hole. “Siyempre, kailangan mong magtiwala sa players mo,” he said.

The long-time coach added, “Nung first two sets, ang pangit ng laro namin. Siguro sa game, lumabas lang ‘yung maturity ng players ko at ‘yung pusong champion.”

It was a nip-and-tuck affair throughout the day, but the deciding set was all Arellano, as setter Sarah Verutiao fired off vicious serves after another and virtually bag the win with a 10-1 lead.

Bianca Tripoli registered 20 markers to pace the Lady Altas.

At 6-0, the reigning queens will try to extend their longest winning run in the league to 19 when they face fellow unscathed San Beda College (5-0) on Friday. Perpetual (4-2) will take on Mapua University (0-5) on Tuesday, January 30.

The Scores:

AU 3 – Prado 20, Marzan 16, Arocha 14, Ebuen 7, Esguerra 4, Ramirez 1, Bello 1, Balanoba 0, Donato 0, Flores L, Buema L.

UPHSD 2 – Tripoli 20, Imbo 19, Clements 12, Verzosa 6, Llorente 5, Gual 3, Sangalang 3, Estanislao 0, Rosal 0, Umandal 0, Medalla L.

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Basketball

Matt Nieto looks forward to learning from Jio Jalalon, Jayson Castro

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When Matt Nieto made his way into the Meralco Gym on Monday evening, the 20-year-old quickly changed his clothes after receiving his Gilas jersey. And once he got dressed, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles’ floor general quickly went to work, as he wanted to absorb everything he can from the night’s session.

“Actually na-star struck ako. ‘Di ako makapaniwala na nandito ako eh,” expressed the six-foot point guard.

Playing and practicing with the players they idolized growing up has been a theme for almost all of the 23 for 2023 cadets. The same could be said about the wide-eyed Nieto, as he could not believe he was side-by-side with the present and the future of the game in Jayson Castro and Jiovani Jalalon.

“Nakita ko pa lang si idol Jiovani Jalalon, nakikita ko parang… di ako makapaniwala na sa isang practice magkasama kami.

“Sila Kiefer [Ravena], lalo na si Jalalon talaga at si Jayson Castro kasi talagang idol ko talaga sila eh. Napapasma nga ako nung una eh kasi parang baka akalain nila ‘sino ba to?’,” the one-time UAAP champion shared.

Nervous, Nieto tried to talk to Castro and Jalalon numerous times during the practice. The two did not turn, welcoming the young buck with open arms.

“Nung nakausap ko na sila medyo na ano na kasi hindi lang sila magaling, sobrang bait pa nila. Madali akong naka-adjust kaagad dito,” he beamed.

Coach Chot Reyes has high expectations with Nieto, as he is being groomed as one of the leaders for the 2023 team. Still, he knows that there is still a long way to go for him.

To become a better leader, the second-generation Blue Eagle knows who to reach out to.

“Gusto ko matuto kay Jayson pati kay Jiovani kasi same position kami. And of course yung leadership ni Kiefer, yung mentality na talagang laban kung laban.

“Gusto ko marami matutunan sa kanila kasi wala pa eh, wala pa ako sa peak ko. Sila andun na. So marami talaga akong matututunan sa kanila kasi sobrang galing nila at sobrang dami na nilang na-achieve sa kanilang basketball career,” Nieto gushed.

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