Josh Ybañez has been one of the biggest revelations in UAAP Season 85, as the rookie led the University of Santo Tomas Golden Spikers to their best first round finish in 12 years.
The 19-year-old spiker, an under-the-radar recruit, continued to show maturity beyond years for a UST side that won six of its first seven games.
As he continues to make waves in the league, Ybañez became the first-ever men’s volleyball player to be voted as the Collegiate Press Corps UAAP Player of the Week presented by San Miguel Corporation and Philippine Sports Commission for the period March 15 to 19.
Despite being tagged as a super rookie, the high-flying player from General Santos City makes sure to always keep his feet on the ground as he remains eager to be better for his team.
“Hindi ko yun iniisip kasi open pa rin ako sa mga turo ng coach, open pa rin ako for learnings na ituturo nila sa akin. Sobrang dami ko pang dapat matutunan,” said Ybañez, emerging as the league’s second leading scorer with a total of 147 points, best server with 0.54 aces per set, and third best spiker with 43.07% attack rate after the first round.
Ybañez is the third freshman to earn the citation after La Salle’s Angel Canino and Adamson’s Trisha Tubu following a unanimous vote by the group of print and online scribes covering collegiate league.
The 5-foot-7 spiker, described by his coach Odjie Mamon as a “small but terrible” player, poured in a season-high 31 points to torch Ateneo, 21-25, 28-26, 25-21, 25-21, on Wednesday at the FilOil EcoOil Centre.
The rookie thus became the first player this season to score over 30 points as he uncorked 26 attacks, three blocks, and two aces on top of a tremendous defensive effort with 14 excellent receptions and eight digs.
Following his career game, Ybañez ended the first round with a bang as he fired a game-high six service aces to finish with 18 points in their 25-17, 25-21, 25-23 win over University of the East to end the round with four consecutive victories on Saturday.
UST coach Mamon believes that the best is yet to come for Ybañez, who has also been stellar on the defensive end as he rose as the No.2 Best Receiver in the league with 55.97% efficiency, Top 9 Best Digger with 1.68 digs per set, and No. 10 blocker with 0.50 blocks per set.
“Siyempre ginu-groom ko pa rin siya, ninu-nurture pa rin,” said Mamon. “Kahit pabayaan mo yan maglalaro yan makakapuntos yan pero siyempre mas maganda yung nasa sistema siya, in sync siya don sa mga kasama niya sabay sabay sila maggo-grow.”
Ybañez shone the brightest among other candidates from UST in Regina Jurado and Eya Laure, National University star Bella Belen, and La Salle’s Angel Canino and Fifi Sharma to earn the weekly citation, which has MNL Kingpin, Tinapayan Festival, and Jockey as minor sponsors.
After proving to be a man among boys in the first round, Ybañez expects himself to be a marked man in facing the opposing schools anew in the second round.
But he is not worried about the increased attention on him, believing that the Golden Spikers will continue to work as a team in the crucial stretch of the elimination.
“Sa totoo lang hindi naman ako nagwoworry kasi ang team namin sobrang daming tutulong,” said Ybañez. “Siguro first round sa akin pero for sure yung second round magstep up yung teammates ko. Wala akong dapat ikatakot.”