[nextpage title = “Men’s”]
The previous season had not provided much excitement. After watching the first few games, a de facto Final Four had been decided, leaving only the order to be determined. However, this year will be different. UAAP Men’s Volleyball this year will be as exciting as the women’s.
It’s good that the collegiate teams finally had an off-season tournament, and providing a picture of the upcoming UAAP season. We were able to see new players from different teams and see them improve after every game. As exciting as the upcoming UAAP wars may sound, there are still four teams that I think will stand out this year: Ateneo, Adamson, NU and La Salle.
Speaking of depth, this team has it. The team has a very good setter, a very good libero, and a good set of hitters. The team also has the national team coach, Oliver Almadro, and has able bench players. They also have no lack of experience, having won a handful of titles in 2015.
The advantage of this Ateneo team is that it not only has very good floor defense, it also has very good blocking. And it’s not just a Marck Espejo show anymore; everyone’s contributing. Marasigan has done well as an opposite; Intal and Villanueva have improved their hitting and blocking; and other wingers, Rivera, Baysa, and Medalla, have provided very good contributions.
The roadblock I can see for this team is their own selves. If they underestimate opponents, that could cause the team to falter, but if they play their usual game, they can have one of the best seasons in UAAP history.
Sure Adamson had a rough off-season, but the UAAP is still a different animal/league. Adamson also have a deep roster, boasting very good hitters, two very good liberos, and a decent setter. They do not lack experience, having featured in the Final Four several times, and the team should remain intact.
The team has very good floor defense, and they have key leaders like Sudaria, Sarmiento, Melgar, and Saraza. So in terms of offense and defense, they won’t have a problem. The true hurdle will be their mentality. That Ateneo versus Adamson game will be something to look forward to. It will be a test of the Falcons’ title credentials.
With seven of their players having graduated, people expected the NU team to struggle. But no; they made the Finals of Spikers’ Turf and Intercollegiate competitions, and managed to challenge two strong teams. They lost both, but have learned from the tournaments.
Their fear factor is the fact that many of their players are still young, still in their first or second years. Aside from veteran setter Mangulabnan, new key players Bagunas, Malabunga, and Gampong will be the players to watch out for. Experience will not be one of their strengths, but based on the last off-season, these boys are ready to fight.
They’re back. We witnessed last summer just how much this team has improved. Although they did not make it to the playoffs, they were able to show a lot of promise. And that is enough.
These past two seasons, the team have lacked character and a leader. This time, with the help of players like Woo and Onia, the team can perhaps go all the way.
Since the team is young, inexperience could hold them back. Fortunately for them, other teams are rebuilding too; they might just be able to squeeze through. They will be an exciting team to watch, that’s for sure.
[nextpage title = “Women’s”]
The upcoming UAAP Women’s Volleyball season has been predicted as one of the most anticipated and exciting seasons ever. I have to agree. A lot of teams this year are loaded and have very good recruits. Some teams went to other countries to train, and some teams beefed up by joining hardcore leagues. The quality of the games will definitely have levelled up, and players will learn even more from each other.
Amidst all the preparation and the anticipation, I still think that there are a couple of teams who will dominate this season: Ateneo, NU, La Salle and FEU. And since the competition is exciting, as a treat, I added two other teams who I think will be challenging the other four teams for Final Four spots.
With recent developments and rotation changes, it looks like it will be another interesting season for Ateneo.
Expect better blocking this year because they have gone for a taller line-up, with all hitters except one having a height of 5’9 and above. Power hitting and serving will always be in Tai Bundit’s system, so expect them to capitalize on this.
Morado, Madayag, Maraguinot, and De Leon have shown commendable improvement in the Thailand training and off-season leagues. Of course, the team’s anchors Valdez and Ahomiro remain, not only great scorers but also great leaders.
Their bench this year is also deep, especially with a couple of blue-chip rookies and seasoned players.
Although the team might look perfect, floor defense will definitely be an issue for the team this year, especially as their top three floor defenders have already graduated. But Ateneo have converted Tan to a libero from a setter; although she had won best setter in the V-League, people had been impressed with her saves and digs.
There’s just so much to like about NU’s line-up this year. With the improvements of Santiago, Pablo, General, and Singh; the comeback of a healthy Urdas; and the acquisition of a talented setter in Diolan, NU will be a team to watch out for in the UAAP.
One area in which NU have also developed is game maturity, something they showed when they defeated Ateneo in the V-League Collegiate Conference. They now know how to handle big crowds and high-pressure games.
With tall and powerful players, they won’t have a problem with hitting as well as blocking. Floor defense will still be an issue, but since Roger Gorayeb’s system is focused on floor defense, expect them to improve on this once the tournament starts.
The ladies from Taft are hard-pressed to win it all this year, particularly with several of their players set to graduate afterwards.
If Galang is healthy and has the same form, La Salle will definitely be a big threat. Fortunately, Soyud and Baron are slowly becoming La Salle’s anchors. Likewise, other veterans like Reyes, Demecillo, and Fajardo will surely be out there to contribute for La Salle.
Blocking will always be in Ramil De Jesus’ system, so expect them utilize this skill to its fullest. One player they will miss is top server Cheng, who will sit out the season due to an ACL injury; her floor defense and serves had been crucial. But nevertheless, La Salle have a very competitive roster, so expect someone else to step up in her place.
They have a loaded line-up. They can easily challenge strong teams such as Ateneo, La Salle, and NU. The main challenge for this squad will be experience. But with a veteran setter like Sy, FEU can go all the way.
Fortunately for FEU, they have found a good libero in Duremdes. Likewise, they maintained a group of good wingers in Pons, Guino-o, and Basas. They also have competitive middles in Palma and Malabanan.
Leadership was an issue for the team last season, as the team seemed to shut down when faced with high pressure or difficult hurdles. Sy’s presence should improve and unify the team, changing the way they play this season.
With the recent developments, like Lastimosa’s injury and Sy’s inclusion in the FEU roster, UST will again face a tough road to the Final Four.
The biggest blow to UST is Pam Lastimosa’s injury. Lastimosa, who not only provided consistent offence for the Tigresses, has also provided very good floor defense and blocking. Aside from these, her leadership and motivation are big factors.
Luckily, Laure, Rondina, Meneses, Tunay, and many other good players remain. At the same time, their new coach appears defensively-oriented, so expect some surprises from this UST squad.
UP, as a team, are loaded with talent, but the main problem for them is the lack of big game exposure and experience. Talent is always there but good players don’t get used to big crowds and grave pressure right away. It takes time. If UP can overcome these hurdles, they could potentially go all the way. But overall, during the off-season, their new players were really impressive. It will be exciting to see them improve even more in the coming years.