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Gorayeb, NU will continue to stick to their guns

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The National University weren’t getting any help from their liberos, so they decided to play without one.

Although they looked like a volleyball team playing in the 90’s — way before the addition of liberos — the Lady Bulldogs persisted. And after five hard-fought sets, the Lady Bulldogs were able to complete a season sweep of the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles.

Although his team struggled in some parts of the match, NU head coach Roger Gorayeb was glad to see his team hold on until the end.

“Paninindigan ko talaga [‘yung walang libero]. Nagkaroon kasi kami ng… parang sinuspinde ko sila,” he opened up about liberos Gayle Valdez and Joni Chavez.

“Sabi ko, kung ‘di kayo magbabago walang mangyayari sa inyo.'”

Valdez, in particular, stepped up in the nick of time when inserted into the game for the mis-receiving Audrey Paran.UAAP 79 NU vs. UE - Valdez-4641

“Pag naglalaro sila ng pangit at nakikita ng maraming tao, mapapahiya lang sila,” the decorated mentor pointed out.

“Mahirap kung isa-subject ko sila sa ganiyang ridicule.

“Kaya kailangan talaga muna nila ulit ipakita sa akin at sa teammates nila na kaya nila mag-contribute,” added Gorayeb.

Aside from that, middle hitters Jaja Santiago and Risa Sato played the entire match and were huge factors in the win.

As the only team to win over Ateneo this season, NU gained a momentary cushion over fellow Final Four aspirants University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, and Far Eastern University — their last remaining opponents in the round.

With a 7-4 record, Gorayeb knows getting one more win could propel them into the post-season.

“Malaking bagay sa amin ‘yan. Sa ngayon kasi kahit sinong team talunin [namin], malaking bagay sa amin, gusto namin ‘yun mangyari.

“Kinapos kami noong una kaya pinipilit namin maka-accumulate na panalo para mag third or fourth. Bahala na si Batman pagdating sa dulo,” said Gorayeb, who is looking for that elusive UAAP crown.

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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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How all imports in the PSL Finals are connected

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The volleyball world is incredibly small and close-knit. Nothing better encapsulates that point like the on-going Chooks-to-Go/PSL Grand Prix Finals between the Petron Blaze Spikers and the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers.

Petron has the well-traveled Lindsay Stalzer on their side. Aside from this being her fourth stint in the PSL, Stalzer has campaigned everywhere from Europe to Asia. Earlier this year, the former PSL Most Valuable Player led Indonesian club Jakarta Elektrik to a championship.

Her partner there? F2 Logistics’ Venezuelan scoring machine Maria Jose Perez.

“She’s such a great player,” Stalzer said of her former teammate after Petron took Game One of the Finals.

“We’re really good friends off the court. But she knows too that when we’re on opposing sides of the net, that it’s all business and we have to try to get our team the win.”

“Lindsay’s a great player,” conceded Perez, who topped the Cargo Movers with 15 points in Game One.

“She’s also a really good teammate and you can see it with how well she bonds with her teammates in Petron.”

The squads’ other two foreign reinforcements also share a connection. Just last year, F2 Logistics’ Kennedy Bryan had a rather controversial falling out in the Korean Volleyball Association with club Expressway Hi-Pass.

Her replacement? Petron’s Hillary Hurley.

The hard-hitting Souther Californinan remembers her stint in Korea fondly where she had a memorable scoring duel with former Petron import Alaina Bergsma. She even got a tattoo to remind her of Korea.

Still, Hurley admits that she is yet to win a championship in the international scene. A win away from winning the Grand Prix trophy, Hurley is incredibly excited to leave the Philippines with gold.

“I’ve always been very close. We’ve won a few tournaments, a few rounds, but never a whole season like this,” said Hurley, who is a known scorer around Europe.

“Honestly, being in the Philippines has been such a blessing. I would want nothing more than to get the championship for my teammates and for all the incredible who have supported us along the way.”

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Basketball

San Miguel still seen as team to beat for Philippine Cup

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Despite missing top overall pick Christian Standhardinger for the entirety of the 2017-18 Philippine Cup, the PBA board of governors still see the San Miguel Beermen as the consensus favorites to bag the All-Filipino crown for the fourth straight year.

Besides San Miguel, the teams are also wary with what the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and the TNT Katropa will bring.

“TNT, Ginebra, and San Miguel,” said Magnolia Hotshots governor Robert Non.

“TNT, intact ‘yung line-up. They also have bigs who can match-up with June Mar [Fajardo], same is true with Ginebra, Greg [Slaughter] is back in the line-up, so are their rookies.”

“TNT,” quipped Ginebra governor Alfrancis Chua.

“SMB hindi pa malakas yan wala pa si Standhardinger. Second conference pa.”

“Of course, San Miguel. And then Ginebra, and TNT,” added Rain or Shine governor Mert Mondragon. “They have good players, they have extremely good coaches. Basta mahusay sila lahat.”

“Kami sa Rain or Shine, for the information of the rest of you, we have five players who are out. [Raymond] Almazan, Jericho Cruz, Jireh [Ibanes],” disclosed Mondragon.

Same as Rain or Shine, the Meralco Bolts are also saddled with injuries to start the season.

“I think we’re coming this season with a lot of injuries, Ranidel de Ocampo and Reynel Hugnatan are sidelined, Cliff Hodge as well. We have four new players, KG Canaleta, Jason Ballesteros, Mac Baracael and Nico Salva,” shared Meralco alternate governor Ryan Gregorio.

Kia governor Bobby Rosales and TNT assistant team manager Magnum Membrere though gave an interesting take on who they think is the darkhorse for the conference.

“I think a darkhorse in the all-Filipino is NLEX,” Rosales said.

“For me number one yung San Miguel, Ginebra, sa tingin ko ‘yung NLEX,” furthered Membrere.

The representatives of Alaska, Blackwater, Phoenix, and NLEX though are confident that they can shock the league.

“For Alaska, hopefully, we’ll be performing better this season. Reason being, intact line-up,” expessed Alaska’s Dickie Bachmann.

“Just like Dickie, we’re hoping we could improve. There’s no way to go but up, we were losing last conference. We got the coaches of Alaska and we’ve got a good rookie so it’s nowhere to go but up,” said Phoenix’s Raymond Zorilla.

“Personally For Blackwater, we have Raymar Jose and I think he will be a big help to Poy Erram. We depend on Poy Erram and when he gets injured, the whole team collapses. Now we have a second option and hopefully he will give the team a good chance,” said Silliman Sy.

“You’ve seen NLEX in the first two conferences, we were in the bottom, but in the last conference, NLEX performed reasonably well and we will continue to improve,” vowed incoming chairman Mon Fernandez.

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PBA governors stand united to open Season 43

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Despite the on-going leadership struggle in the league, there’s no stopping the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) from resuming operations, as Asia’s first pro league will open its’ 43rd season this Sunday, December 17.

“As what I said in the PBA Press Corps Awards Night, December 17 is still the date for the season opening of Season 43,” league chairman Mikee Romero said during the PBA’s presser, Wednesday afternoon at Okada Manila.

“Ang sabi ko nga ho eh hindi pwede mawala ang PBA sa Pilipino, or ang Pilipino mawala sa PBA.”

Gracing the event were the vast majority of the governors — Mon Fernandez of NLEX, Robert Non of San Miguel, Alfrancis Chua of Ginebra, Rene Pardo of Magnolia, Dickie Bachmann of Alaska, Mert Mondragon of Rain or Shine, Raymond Zorrilla of Phoenix, Silliman Sy of Blackwater, Bobby Rosales of Kia. Joining them were TNT assistant team manager Magnum Membrere and Meralco alternate governor Ryan Gregorio.

And for those who had attended the press conference, it was definitely a sight to behold, that it speaks volumes that even just for now, differences were set aside all for the betterment of the beloved league.

“I think we’re a very solid group at this point in time,” Romero opined. “As what we promised — that promise did not come from me, the promise came from all 12 teams… Ito pong December 17 suportahan natin. Business as usual.

“This Sunday, what we should be watching are the players, the superstars of Philippine basketball. 43 years, ang masasabi ko lang, let the games begin.”

The impasse wasn’t discussed during the presser, as the league requested moments prior to the event that the members of the press refrain from asking questions about it. Commissioner Chito Narvasa though was in attendance, but did not grant any interviews.

With the league still in a bit of a turmoil, it is still a mystery on how the 43rd season will roll out. Vice Chairman Mon Fernandez did not go into detail about their plans, but he promised to “make the PBA very relevant to the Filipinos.”

“There are a lot of plans but we cannot reveal yet,” said the former NLEX governor. “Definitely, what the board promises you is we will have a more exciting year and we’ll continue to delight the millions of fans of the PBA.

“We promise that with your support, we will continue to make the PBA very relevant to the Filipinos.”

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ABL

Where is Joshua Munzon?

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Still remember Joshua Munzon?

The uber-athletic Fil-American made waves in the ASEAN Basketball League last season, producing highlight-worthy plays and excellent numbers for Vietnamese squad Saigon Heat and the Westports Malaysia Dragons.

He had also gained ground with Filipino fans when he and Saigon came the Philippines back in January to face Alab Pilipinas. The Heat may have lost 99-79, but Munzon won the hearts of Pinoys that night with the way he played.

But now, with the new ABL season rolling, he is nowhere to be found.

It is baffling, to say the least, that such a talented cager like Munzon isn’t suiting up for an ABL squad this season, considering that he posted commendable numbers of 19.4 points and nearly five steals in his rookie year.

He still made strides in the Thailand League with club team PEA, after his ABL stint last March. However, it was still a mystery why Munzon isn’t in the ABL, especially with the amount of teams that want his services.

But he has finally shed light on the issue.

“Me and KL (Westports) couldn’t agree to terms on a contract, so I tried to sign with another team. But I guess KL would have to release me to play for another team, although I’m not under contract with KL,” Munzon told Tiebreaker Times.

Munzon added that the apparent “gentlemen’s agreement” among the ABL team owners — which means he has to wait for a year before signing with another club — is what landed him in this unfortunate situation.

“KL told me they won’t release me to sign with another team this season, so I’m going to have to wait ’til next season to sign with another team,” revealed Munzon, who also shared that five ABL teams had reached out to him.

The California State-LA alumnus is currently at his home in Los Angeles, continuing his workouts and waiting for developments, if any. But Munzon did not hide the fact that being held like this is extremely disappointing.

“Very tough. It’s been a very unfortunate situation that I definitely don’t feel I deserve to be in.”

Back in January, Munzon had actually made clear his intentions of playing in the Philippines. Not for a Filipino ABL team, though, but in the PBA. And he was also aware of what he has to do first: play in the D-League.

“Yeah, play in the D-League first,” Munzon was quoted saying back then. “We’ll see after the (2016-2017) season. I’ll weigh my options first and go from there.

“But definitely get in the D-League first, and hopefully move forward from there.”

When he wasn’t seen anywhere in the ABL, those who have been following Munzon’s career assumed that he was bound to fulfill his plans, and it was expected that he will make himself eligible in the 2017 D-League Draft.

Unfortunately, that did not happen.

“I wasn’t aware of the deadlines to apply,” admitted Munzon, the consensus top pick, as the deadline of submission of requirements for Fil-foreign applicants was due last November 10. “I think I’m too late for PBA D-League.”

Had Munzon joined this year’s draft, teams would definitely show strong interest. Standing at six-foot-five with the ability to attack the rim, shoot from downtown, and defend, he perfectly fits the Filipinos’ style of play.

But until then, the fans still have to wait.

He may be clouded with uncertainties in the ABL, but that does not spell the end of Munzon’s young pro career. In fact, he might even fly back to Southeast Asia and return to Thailand for yet another campaign.

“I could possibly be playing in the upcoming TBSL season in Thailand,” Munzon shared. “[But] I’m not sure which team yet though, but I should know sooner than later.”

Munzon is slowly carving a niche for himself as a journeyman in this part of Asia. Asked if he will soon fly to the Philippines to play in the PBA, the 22-year-old said that that possibility will happen “in a matter of time.”

“I would have to play D-League before [going into the PBA], or wait until I’m 28 — but I’m 22,” he quipped. “But I definitely see myself playing in the PBA eventually.

“It’s just a matter of time.”

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