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PLDT’s Thomasians find “Fullfillment” in Spiker’s Turf Title

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To say that the first Spikers’ Turf season was anything less than momentous would be totally undermining the league’s magnitude to the once severely overlooked sport of men’s volleyball. For the first time in more than two decades, a local commercial league successfully gathered the best men’s volleyball players into one league for a season filled with the exciting, testerone fueled volleyball that sat dormantly as women’s commercial volleyball began to take off.

Arguably the best volleyball club assembled, the PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters gathered momentum from the start of the tournament and planted their flag atop the mountain of internal challenges and loaded teams they had to climb. The Ultra Fast Hitters rattled off eight straight games after starting 2-2 en route to the inaugural Spikers’ Turf title.

Though most of the credit should rightfully go to PLDT’s deep roster, head coach Odjie Mamon’s personnel management and midseason adjustments keyed the Ultra Fast Hitter’s title run. At the beginning of the season, Mamon admitted that though his team was filled to the brim with talent, it was a quite challenge having to put together a proper rotation. “Walang problema ‘yung team ko sa talent. My team is filled with superstars. But may mga kailangan pa talaga kami iwork-out when it comes to certain skills,” Mamon said after an early season, five-set loss to Champion Infinity.

Coach Odjie continued to toggle through his lineup and hit pay-dirt when he started utilizing his shake ‘n bake tandem of NCAA stars, Howard Mojica and John Vic De Guzman, more in the second round of eliminations and in their Finals showdown with Cagayan. “Iba ‘yung energy nila (De Guzman and Mojica). Everyone from the teams contributes positively kapag nailalaro. Iba lang talaga ‘yung liveliness ng NCAA players ko,” remarked Mamon after clinching the title last Tuesday.

Coach Odjie has always been a picture of confidence but it was during their winning streak that Mamon seemed most jovial in his coaching stint. After a turbulent season in the UAAP where he went double-duty for his alma matter UST, his happiness could be genuinely felt.

After an up-and-down season with the Golden Tigresses, Mamon opted to step down fro his post with the women’s team. “Malaki na ‘yung inadjust ko sa style ko of coaching for the women’s team. Siguro hindi lang talaga ako for the Golden Tigresses,” Mamon told reporters after announcing his move.

With the Tigers, Coach Odjie saw his team’s twice-to-beat advantage wilt away as their opponents, the then defending champions, NU found their groove in the Final Four. He also had to deal with a conduct issue when three of his seniors went on an unauthorized tryout with a local club team. He suspended the trio but eventually reinstated them after a week of deliberation after a crucial loss to the Adamson Falcons that wound up costing them the coveted no. 1 seed.

With all that in mind, Coach Odjie felt validated by his PLDT title. “Fullfilling,” quipped the Tigers’ mentor after Tuesday’s match. “Masaya ako with how the team played in the season. Malaki ‘yung naibigay ng PLDT sa akin personally, and sa men’s volleyball dito sa atin more importantly.” Mamon also coached PLDt to a title in the Air Force’s Commending General Cup before the Spikers’ Turf season.

Another Ultra Fast Hitter who found fulfillment in the title was Mamon’s star spiker in UST, Mark Alfafara. The General Santos native had won all there was to win in the UAAP, but he wanted to end his career with a title. After a couple of years of missing the Final Four, the Tigers made their way back to the big stage mostly through Alfafara’s routine offensive explosions. In the Final Four, the open hitter delivered a record 37-point performance in their first meeting with the NU Bulldogs but his twice-to-beat Tigers still fell short. NU went on to the Finals where they lost to Ateneo, a team UST beat twice in the elimination rounds.

Seeking to redeem himself, the former UAAP Best Scorer, Attacker, Blocker, Server, and MVP powered the Ultra Fast Hitters throughout the Spikers’ Turf season. Leading his team in scoring, Alfafara won the league’s Best Opposite Attacker plum and performed well enough in the title matches to net the Finals MVP award.

“Masarap talaga sa pakiramdam na manalo ng championship. Gustong gusto ko talaga matapos ‘yung career ko sa UST na may championship tulad noong unang taon ko kaya masakit talaga sa damdamin noong hindi nangyari ‘yun. Pero malaking pambawi ‘tong championship sa PLDT. Nakakafullfill na nakakatulong ako sa pag panalo ng championship,” said the accomplished beach volleyball player.

When asked about his continually growing stack of individual awards, Alfafara answered with his trademark humility. “Normal na tao lang naman ako na kayang mag-volleyball kaya malaki ang pasasalamat ko sa Diyos na binigyan niya ako ng pagkakataon maipakita at magamit ‘yung binigay niya sa aking talento. Malaki rin ‘yung naitutulong sa akin ng mga award na ‘to kasi malayo ako sa pamilya ko. Kapag nanalo ako ng mga ganito, at least nararamdaman ko na worth it ‘yung mga sakripisyo ko at saka may maipapakita ako sa paglalaro ko ng volleyball.”

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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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Mixed Martial Arts

ONE Championship pledges to help Global Citizen in fight against poverty

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Contributed photo

During the pre-fight showdown between the fighters main evening ONE Championship: Global Superheroes, the biggest mixed martial arts promotion in Asia also forged a partnership, Monday afternoon.

ONE, through chief executive officer and chariman, Chatri Sityodtong vowed to help Global Citizen in its fight to end poverty.

“It is with great excitement that I announce ONE Championship’s partnership with Global Citizen, an NGO with the goal of ending extreme poverty across the world by the year 2030,” said Sityodtong. “Just like Global Citizen, ONE Championship aims to inspire the people of the world to come together to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.”

“We are thrilled to be joining forces with ONE Championship to bring Global Citizen to Asia. ONE Championship reaches millions of young people around the region and together we will engage them on issues that impact the entire world,” expressed Global Citizen co-founder Wei Soo. “Since we launched Global Citizen in 2012, over 13 million actions have been taken, and we are excited to drive more actions and increase our impact for the world’s most marginalized people through this partnership.”

Headquartered in New York with offices in Canada, Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom, Global Citizen was founded in 2012 with the goal of building the largest platform where people can learn about issues, take action on what matters most, and join a global movement working to end extreme poverty by 2030. Since then, millions of Global Citizens around the world have taken over ten million actions, which includes millions of emails, tweets, petition signatures, and phone calls targeting world leaders to end extreme poverty by 2030.

To date, the actions by Global Citizen’s global community, along with its high-level advocacy efforts and various partners, have resulted in 130 commitments and policy announcements from leaders, including financial aid valued at over US $35-billion, that is set to affect the lives of over 1.3 billion people.

Also present in the launch were ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon Vera, ONE Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee, and former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang.

The partnership launching at ONE’s upcoming event in Manila, Philippines on Friday, January 26, will harness the power of ONE’s platform to engage millions of martial arts fans around the world to support initiatives and find solutions to the issues associated with extreme poverty.

Global Citizen and ONE will collaborate across 24 live ONE events scheduled in 2018, and various outreach activations throughout Asia. Fans will have the opportunity to take action and engage with specific policy areas including, education, food security, hunger and nutrition, global health, gender equality and empowerment.

“Our ONE Championship athletes embody the spirit of perseverance and many have risen through poverty through martial arts, inspiring millions of people around the world with their journey,” Sityodtong added. “Through our collaboration across all 24 of our live events scheduled in 2018, ONE Championship and Global Citizen aim to affect positive movement in our society.”

The first action ONE fans can take will be centred on global education. Fans will be able to call on donor countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and India, to attend the Global Partnership for Education’s replenishment conference in Dakar, Senegal on February 2, 2018, and make a commitment to GPE to support better education for all. Currently, 264 million children around the world are missing out on an education.

Over half are girls, and over 75 million have had their schooling disrupted by conflict or natural disasters. At the replenishment conference, the GPE will raise much needed funds that will allow it to continue to support quality, inclusive education to hundreds of millions of children around the world.

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AU

Unscathed Altas on another plane, hands Chiefs first loss

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Eighteen straight sets won

NCAA Men’s Volleyball powerhouse University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas showed no signs of letting up and crushed fellow erstwhile undefeated Arellano University Chiefs in just three sets, 25-14, 25-22, 25-17, to notch their sixth consecutive victory, Tuesday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

Skipper Jun Taneo scattered his quiet 13 points throughout the match to lead the Season 91 champions. Rookie Joebert Almodiel finished with 10 spikes.

The Altas edged out the opposition in all scoring skills and dominated them in the non-scoring ones to bag the win. Nonetheless, it was the uncharacteristic 34 errors from the Chiefs that ultimately caused their doom.

With expectations minimized at the start of the season, head coach Sammy Acaylar shared his pride on how his wards have been playing so far.

“Sabi ko nga, hindi ako satisfied sa team ko kasi maraming nawala. Pero dinaan ko sila sa force, sa discipline, sa training. And I always motivate them na everything will come into place,” the seasoned mentor shared.

Acaylar was pleased that what they trained on showed up in the game. “Nakita ko ‘yung galaw nila, almost perfect,” he ended beaming.

The now 6-0 Perpetual will try to seal another semifinals appearance as they battle fellow day winners Mapua University (3-2) on Tuesday, January 30.

John Cabillan rallied the tribe with 10 markers.

The Chiefs (5-1) and the San Beda College (4-1) will figure in an all-important battle on Friday.

The Scores:

UPHSD 3 – Taneo 13, Almodiel 10, Rosales 8, Ramos 6, Muhali 3, Solamilo 1, Catipay 0, Kalingking L.

AU 0 – Cabillan 10, Dela Paz 8, Segovia 5, Lapuz 4, Liberato J 3, Liberato K 1, Arellano T 0, Soriano 0, Domingo 0, Arellano K 0, Blanco L, Esguerra L.

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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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