[nextpage title = “In Memoriam”]
As much fun as it is following club teams, collegiate leagues have an extra spice that you just don’t get when our favorite players suit up for corporate juggernauts.
Whether it’s the smell of teen spirit or the distinct roar of school drumlines, college games just seem to mean more, as flawed as that premise sounds. Especially in the Philippines, where college teams represent actual communities and club teams represent, well, corporate chest thumping.
The Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference has had that school spirit in bunches. The league has seemingly evolved from glorified, preseason scrimmages to seemingly intriguing prologues to the coming collegiate wars for the teams involved. Every team has had its share of ups and downs, but there were eight that persisted.
Before we examine each of the Elite Eight teams, let’s first pay homage to the Fallen Four… errr Unfortunate Four… the Quadruple Debacle… Whatever.
The PUP Lady Radicals lived up to their name, if not only in the manner of their participation. You see, this was the team’s first V-League campaign, and they had never competed against foes of this caliber, so you can probably tell how they did. Not even the gangly 6’2” frame of guest player, Lourdes Clemente, could save them from getting swept, but at least they tried, and at least they were radical.
Speaking of first timers, the University of Batangas Lady Brahmans sparked a lot of intrigue at the start of the season. The press room was abuzz until someone finally googled what a Brahman was. To their credit, the Batangueñas showed us throughout their short stint what the Lady Brahmans were about – a scrappy lot, whose keen floor defense allowed them to steal a set against the UP Lady Maroons. Alas, digs and passes don’t count for points, and their lack of offense kept them from advancing. But, UB can take pride that they were one of the few teams in the tournament that ended their season with a win.
The TIP Lady Engineers had familiar faces on their squad with a pair of former Lady Maroons spearheading the team. After an exciting opening day win against a would-be Top 8 team, TIP’s season slanted down the y-axis pretty quickly. But, because of their opening day triumph, they had a shot, and none of the teams above had that. They took a set against UST and had the Lady Stags on the ropes. They were in the race until the last day, but a single win just wasn’t enough.
Finally, a team plagued by “coulda, shoulda, and wouldas” but were probably better off with those questions than a short-lived run – the SSC-R Lady Stags. Some fans argue that they should have played their star player, Gretchel Soltones, because they would have made the Top 8. However, the coaching staff took the season as an opportunity to find other scoring options. Soltones could only watch from the back row as her teammates struggled for every point. Their lone win came in a dragged out five-setter against the Lady Engineers. They were in the hunt for a Top 8 spot up until an epic upset. Perhaps Baste and Soltones will get their chance to shine in the NCAA.
[/nextpage] [nextpage title = “The Green Teams”]
College of Saint Benilde Lady Blazers
First Round Record: 2-3 (Carries over 0-3)
Schedule: Aug 16 v FEU, Aug 23 v NU, Aug 30 v UP, Sept 5 v AU
In the Top 8, teams will face the the squads that weren’t on their bracket in the first elimination round.
First, from Group B are the ladies from Taft. The Lady Blazers started their season spectacularly with consecutive wins in dominant fashion. They still looked like they were in great shape after falling to both UST and Ateneo in five sets since both loses were looked as signs of progress. They looked amazing at the start of their match against the Lady Patriots but they seemed to forget how to close matches. The Caviteñas rallied back and claimed a much needed win, sending the Lady Blazers at a compromising position in the Top 8 since only wins losses against fellow Top 8 qualifiers will carry over into the next round.
Benilde needs to remedy their shortcomings one at a time and maybe even in a sequence. Their ball control continued to elude them through their three-game skid. Currently, the Lady Blazers sit at tenth and sixth out of 12 teams in digging and recieving respectively. The quality of their first touch is crucial as their setter, Djanel Cheng best works her magic when she isn’t chasing around loose first balls. Cheng is fourth in the tournament in setting and that is mostly due to the combined effort of open hitter Janine Navarro and middle blocker Jeanette Panaga who are first and second in total points respectively. Despite the pair’s brilliance, Benilde still finished at the lower half of the league in spiking efficiency – most probably caused by their predictable offense and lack of firepower when Navarro and Panaga rotate out of the front row.
Offensive variation hinges on the type of first balls a team gets. Benilde should align its backrow for coverages and receptiona properly more often, look for better sets and maybe even a few combination plays to follow.
For the Lady Blazers to make it to the next stage, they need to win every game in the following round. Regardless, look for their showdown with the AU Lady Chiefs to be a doozy.
De La Salle University – Dasmariñas Lady Patriots
First Round Record: 2-3 (Carries over 1-2)
Schedule: Aug 15 v NU, Aug 23 v FEU, Aug 29 v AU, Sept 6 v UP
These Caviteñas have been incredibly fun to watch. Following their opening day, heartbreaking loss against the TIP Lady Engineers, the Lady Patriots got better with every game and peaked just when they need to most, when they went against the CSB Lady Blazers.
La Salle’s blend of veteran regular and guest players have been fueling them through the season. As the season went along, DLSU’s chemistry gradually ironed out as well. With Cherry Nunag and Desiree Dadang manning (ladying?) both middle blocker slots, decorated setter Gyzelle Sy calling the shots, and a fiery Iumi Yongco delivering heavy blows from the open hitter spot, Dasma has a stable core that can contend with almost everyone else on the Top 8. They’ve also received timely contributions from their young players, most notably from oppoaite hitter, Maribeth Lara who fired off a season-high 17 points in their clutch win over CSB.
As with their sister school, Dasma needs to get better play from its backrow as they are currently 10th and 11th in digging and receiving respectively. As they head into the next round, teams are only going to hit and serve a lot harder.
The Caviteñas might only be in the hunt for another upset since their initial 1-2 record only gives them a solid to chance to make it to the Top 4 if they win three of their next four games. However, they do have a great chance at ending their season with a bang as they face UP Lady Maroons on their final match of the season. Speaking of Lady Maroons…
[/nextpage] [nextpage title = “UP and Arellano”]
University of the Philippines Lady Maroons
First Round Record: 2-3 (Carries over 0-3)
Schedule: Aug 15 v Ateneo, Aug 22 v UST, Aug 30 v CSB, Sept 6 v DLSU-D
There hasn’t been a better time to be a Lady Maroon fan than now. For years, UP’s followers have been teased with batches of “promising” rookies but it seems this crop that Jerry Yee plucked might finally deliver.
I don’t know which rookie makes me giddier. Open hitter, Ysa Molde has been lighting up the stats sheet with gaudy scoring totals. She is currently the league’s sixth best scorer and seventh best attacker, mingling in with hardened veterans. The towering middle blocker, Maristella Layug is a best blocker awardee in the making. For now, she’s fifth in blocks per set. Justine Dorog has shown flashes of brilliance as well. Pretty soon, she’ll be living up to her name and crushing blockers in her way.
We haven’t even mentioned how much sophomores, setter Jewel Lai and middle blocker Marian Buitre have improved from last season. This isn’t even their full lineup yet. Once Kathy Bersola and Nicole Tiamzon make their way back to the lineup come the UAAP, UP will finally be a Final Four favorite.
For the mean time, they’ve performed exactly how one would expect a team of rookies and sophomores would – they give up a lot of errors and points veterans would find a way to limit. They’re in the top half of every skill ranking with astonishingly high places in blocking (3rd), receiving (4th), and digging (2nd).
Ask coach Jerry Yee and he’ll tell you that his team is mostly in the tournament to win as much as they can but more importantly to get as much exposure for they’re rookies. A 0-3 record makes for a tough climb to the Final Four of this tournament with only four games remaining. However, it’s a good bet that these young Lady Maroons will pull off at least two more wins.
Arellano University Lady Chiefs
First Round Record: 4-1 ( Carries over 2-1)
Schedule: Aug 16 v UST, Aug 22 v Ateneo, Aug 29 v DLSU-D, Sept 5 v CSB
The defending NCAA champs hummed through the first round. They breezed through their matches against PUP and UB but were up and down against their fellow contenders.
They whittled down the Lady Maroons through sheer veteran volition, dragging UP to uncomfortable corners in every set and coming out on top. The Lady Tams’ reinforced lineup was too much for them but they gathered an impressive win against the UAAP third place NU Lady Bulldogs.
Many are quick to draw an asterisk in their triumph over NU since Dindin Santiago-Manabat and Myla Pablo were away in Vietnam for the VTV Cup. But, for the Lady Chiefs there is still a lot of pride to be derived from that win since the only piece that NU was missing from their regular lineup was Pablo, and most of the Lady Chiefs had that match circled since half of their lineup consists of transferees from UAAP schools, mostly from NU.
Open hitter, Menchie Tubiera has been AU’s most reliable source of points and is the league’s second best attacker behind Jaja Santiago. Aside from Tubiera, AU’s usual scorers have been mostly put out of commission by the stronger teams. Team captain, CJ Rosario has been a solid presence at the net but has not had a breakout offensive game. Ditto for the wiry Dana Henson who has struggled against taller opposition. Luckily, guest player Mina Aganon is still as low-maintenance as she was in college. Aganon is probably the closest we’ll get to Seventh Lady of the Year as the former Lady Bulldog has provided points in an instant every time she is plugged into the match from the bench. AU’s Libero, Jan Eunice Galang has valiantly protected the back row but the Libero can only do so much.
Henson and Rosario are due to for a big game. Hopefully, they come around in the soonest as their climb to a Final Four spot only gets tougher with games against Ateneo, UST, and CSB.
[/nextpage] [nextpage title = “FEU and UST”]
Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws
First Round Record: 4-1 (Carries over 2-1)
Schedule: Aug 16 v CSB, Aug 23 v DLSU-D, Aug 29 v Ateneo, Sept 5 v UST
Staying on the throne is far more difficult than winning it in the first place and the Lady Tams are in that precarious position now. They had a squad lined with vets when they won the SVL title last year, but this season is sort of a transitional year for the Lady Tams.
A late surge last UAAP season bolted the Tams to their first Final Four appearance in almost half a decade. Key players – Tin Agno and Yna Papa – have exhausted their playing years and filling those spots have been a priority for Coach Shaq Delos Santos. Sophomore Kyle Negrito has had more good moments than bad so far in the season but Coach Shaq is looking for her to finally come out of her shell. Kyle Atienza has pretty big knee pads to fill as the Puto Queen was a digger of a whole ‘notha level.
On the other hand, FEU’s hitters have continued to expand their games. Bernadeth Pons has always been an all-around player but the third-year open hitter has been consistent throughout the tournament and has shone brightest against high-level competition. Remy Palma has trimmed down significantly, leading to revitalized mobility and thunderous running hits. Sophomore Toni Rose Basas is slowly getting the hang of hitting against tall blockers and varying her hits. Knee injuries threw a wrench in Geneveve Casugo’s development but getting healthier and back in peak form is probably top priority for the 6’2’’ middle blocker, who was potent in her team’s late season push in the UAAP.
Of course, their guest players Jovelyn Gonzaga and Royse Tubino who not only help lift the team’s record but also bring their veteran presence and habits to every practice, ripe for FEU’s young guns to absorb.
In their lone loss, the Lady Tams struggle was mostly derived from errors down the stretch of close sets. Although the score sheet shows NU swept FEU, the Lady Tams led early in the first two sets only to allow NU to rally back and snatch both sets when it got to the twenties. Most of their faults were off attack attempts that can easily be prevented the more the team gels and the setter gets a feel for her attackers.
FEU’s matches against fellow UAAP teams, Ateneo and UST, are must-watch volleyball. This might be the best chance FEU has at nabbing a win against the defending UAAP champs and UST will be out for blood after the Lady Tams eliminated them in five thrilling sets in last season’s play-off for the last UAAP Final Four spot.
University of Sto. Tomas Golden Tigresses
First Round Record: 4-1 (Carries over 2-1)
Schedule: Aug 16 v Arellano, Aug 22 v UP, Aug 30 v NU, Sept 5 v FEU
Bar the Libero, everyone from last season’s main lineup is back for the Tigresses, this time with a shao lin twist.
The installment of head coach Kungfu Reyes came with a renewed focus on blocking. Currently, the Tomasinas are first in the league in total block kills by a wide margin, largely due to Coach Reyes’ insistence on gambling on triple blocks. But, a new system always comes with a few growing pains in the infancy stages and the Tigresses are still in the mastery stages of getting their coverages just right to account for attacks to fly over or through the three-lady wall. As a result, UST is in the lower half of the league in digging. Coach Reyes probably wants them to be around the middle, sort of like how the DLSU Lady Spikers don’t suffer from too much of an offset from their own focus on blocking. Errors on serves remain a problem for UST as well but muscle memory provides an easy fix for those.
The girls from Espana are also moving with more purpose evident in the consistent performance of girls like Mela Tunay and Jesse De Leon, with setter Alex Cabanos coming along gradually. UST’s attack pattern calls for unpredictability and multiple players have top-scored for the Tigresses in their first five games. Even in their loss against Ateneo, UST still showed promise and have trended upwards since then.
Carmela Tunay’s absence may hamper UST’s run but Chlodia Cortez is used to filling in for Tunay. The following games are invaluable for Cortez who will takeover in the starting rotation upon Tunay’s exhaustion of playing years. It’s just too bad that Tunay went down after a phenomenal start to her season.
The Tigresses have no easy outing in the following four games as NU, UP, and FEU all earned wins over the Tomasinas in the UAAP, and AU has a host of veterans due for a big game. Still, all signs point to UST improving with every game and I wouldn’t be surprised if UST gets taken to five sets in all four games.
[/nextpage] [nextpage title = “The Favorites”]
National University Lady Bulldogs
First Round Record: 4-1 (Carries over 2-1)
Schedule: Aug 15 v DLSU-D, Aug 23 v CSB, Aug 30 v UST, Sept 6 v Ateneo
Many consider NU to be undefeated since their lone loss came without DIndin Santiago-Manabat and Myla Pablo. But any coach will tell you never to underestimate an opponent and that match actually provided NU with the closest thing to a UAAP they’re going to have in the tournament.
Just think back to NU in UAAP Season 76 and you basically have the Lady Bulldogs in this SVL, only you tweak a few parts (Replace Ivy Perez, Mina Aganon and Jen Reyes with Rica Diolan, Jorelle Singh and Bia General while having Aiko Urdas come off an ACL tear, voila). The Santiago sisters give NU the advantage of having virtually no weak rotation. Both Jaja and open hitter Myla Pablo played key roles for Team Pilipinas in the past summer’s international circuit. Jorelle Singh could still stand to lose a few pounds but if it means a dip in the sheer power in her spikes, then dieting is probably not worth it.
Aiko Urdas just came back from a severe knee injury but has been slowly recovering and has once in a while fired off classic Urdas kills. Arguably, Rica Diolan, among all rookies, will be pressured the most to perform immediately. In years past, the narrative with NU has been the lack of a quality setter. Now, they have the UAAP Junior’s Best Setter so they should start winning titles now, right?
Diolan, as coaches would say, still has a little bit of nene in her. In past games, Diolan has had her share of rookie mistakes and errors that come from her efforts to compensate for her mistakes. Diolan’s adaptability in this short period of time will most likely spell NU’s chances at a title not only in the SVL, but in the UAAP.
The Lady Bulldogs are heavily favored to waltz their way to the Final Four of this tournament and might even be favorites against the crowd darlings, Ateneo Lady Eagles given their injury problems. Position for position, NU has the leg up on everyone on the league. Time will tell if they’ll develop enough as a team to avenge last season’s loss in the SVL Finals.
Ateneo De Manila University Lady Eagles
First Round Record: 5-0 (Carries over 3-0)
Schedule: Aug 15 v UP, Aug 22 v Arellano, Aug 29 v FEU, Sept 6 v NU
The defending UAAP champs have their fans knocking on every piece of wood they can find every time the word “injury” is mentioned. A lot of key players were ruled out even before the season began and more injuries trickled in as the season went along. Fans were robbed of seeing Kat Tolentino in her debut, Ella De Jesus missed a game due to an eye infection, and Ponggay Gaston injured her ankle in warm-ups against the Lady Blazers.
It’s a good thing the country’s best player is still in their lineup. Although the coaching staff might have wanted Alyssa Valdez to get a bit more rest (even sit out the entire of the first round), Valdez immidiately goe her Nikes on when duty called. It took some time for her to get into form, but the two-time UAAP MVP was already back in shape just in time to save her time from an upset against CSB.
Who can forget how Jhoana Maraguinot filled in for Valdez in her absence? Dropping 23 on UST with back row attacks aplenty, Maraguinot went from an afterthought on the U23 team to one of the country’s best scorers in the span of a game. Kiwi Ahomiro has been consistently deadly whether coach Tai slots her as a wing spiker or a middle blocker. Gizelle Tan has shown why she was considered an equal to Jia Morado in high school (she currently leads the league in setting). Kim Gequillana and Maddie Maddayag have made the most of what playing their given. Had there been not too many injuries, I firmly believe Ateneo could have still gone 5-0 even without Valdez in the lineup. But that would have been a bummer for the entire country,
At its core, Ateneo’s depleted SVL lineup is still the best team in the league. However, their first round was quite light compared to the daunting lineup of foes that await them in the Top 8.If there ever was a time for a team to steal an upset against Ateneo, the time would be now before they get a chance to peak.
No Rest for the Weary: Lady Spikers head to training immediately after Lady Bulldogs loss
Why did Jho Maraguinot and Maddie Madayag change numbers?
Mark Dyke back in La Salle
Christian Dela Paz motivated to bring first-ever title to Arellano
Air Padda takes aim at poor officiating: ‘You need to be perfect as a ref’
Adamson averts another UE upset, snaps two-game skid
Chiara Permentilla out for at least two games
Jerome Yenson fulfills promise to Adamson
- Basketball5 days ago
Arwind Santos on Game 3 loss: ‘May mga shadow yung players kanina, yung lima nagiging walo’
- DLSU4 days ago
Shannon Arthur, La Salle edge UP, near third straight Finals appearance
- Mixed Martial Arts4 days ago
Kevin Belingon headlines Heroes of Honor card
- AdU4 days ago
Practice may have been Adamson’s secret weapon but Jerome Yenson is their ‘lethal weapon’