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Rookies of the year: How UP’s recruiting coup compares to other classes



Rarely do rookies make any credible impact to a team’s success in college sports. These kids have just dealt with puberty. It’s hard to expect them to perform against the fully developed college athletes.

When the University of the Philippines first recruited Isa Molde, Justine Dorog, and Diana Carlos, there was a sense that the hype needed to be curbed. After all, there had been previous batches of rookie Lady Maroons that were heralded as saviors, only to fail in the end.

But from these girls first game in a UP jersey, you could tell they were special. They were fearless, adaptable, and somewhat unassuming of the pressure that comes with playing for such a hungry program.

As Season 78 wore on, UP picked up steam, culminating with a historic win over the Ateneo Lady Eagles. Along the way, their rookies were leading their offense, showing skills beyond their years.

Against Ateneo, Molde and Carlos were at the forefront of the attack, throwing down 15 and 12 points respectively and giving the Lady Eagles hell with their serves.

Perhaps, UP scored the best crop of rookies in recent years. This many rookies playing pivotal roles for a Final Four contender is unseen.

There’s a culture shift in UP and their rookies are leading the change.

There were other classes who experienced success in the UAAP. Ateneo had the famous Fab Five of Fille Cainglet, A Nacachi, Jem Ferrer, Dzi Gervacio, and Gretchen Ho. However, they weren’t great right off the bat, they needed time to adjust. La Salle had girls like Michele Gumabao and Aby Maraño start playing for them at the same time. However, La Salle assimilated those girls in a culture of winning – there weren’t any long-standing losing streaks or jokes about their losing. Ditto for the Ara Galang, – Mika Reyes class of Lady Spikers.

The best example of a paradigm-shifting batch of neophytes was the Lady Eagles class of Season 76. Setter Jia Morada and wing hitters Mich Morente and Kim Gequillana had roles in Ateneo’s first title run. They took what the Fab Five started and helped Alyssa Valdez take down the dominant Lady Spikers.

Molde, Carlos, and perhaps even Dorog when she recovers from her shoulder injury, are the Lady Maroons’ best bets to bring UP to the same level. And they’re just on their first year, taking GE subjects and navigating the grueling student-athlete life in UP.

“Marami pa po kaming kailangan ma-improve at matutunan. Wala pa po talaga kami sa level na kailangan namin marating para talagang ma-consider na malakas,” said Molde.

UAAP 78 Volleyball UP vs. NU - Molde-6284

“Sila coach po talaga ‘yung nagsasabi sa amin ng mga kailangan namin gawin on and off the court to improve. Sinabi lang naman to stay calm and gawin ‘yung ginagawa namin sa training,” Molde added.

“Nagcocontest sila. Paunahan daw sila nang maganda ang laro which is a very very good thing, to have friendly competition inside your team. Any time you have two players na nagpapagalingan, okay ‘yun for us,” Yee revealed about Carlos and Molde.

“Ganoon naman talaga, binibigay lang nmin ‘yung best namin. Sinabi ni coach na may skill na lamang ako kay Isa and vice-versa. So ginagawa ko lang ‘yung best namin para mapunan ‘yung areas na kulang ako at ma-improve pa ‘yung mga good skills ko,” Dorog explained.

Molde and Carlos will have plenty of time to out do each other in their careers, as Yee said, UP is better off having incredibly competitive players in the team.

After winning against Ateneo, nothing is impossible for these young UP Lady Maroons.


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.