It’s that magical time of year right after the holidays when we’re still just a bit high on holiday ham and long awaited gifts so I thought I’d give out some gifts to the people who’ve made covering volleyball this season some gifts. But since I’ve already spent my money on Pokemon and gifts for my loved ones, I thought I’d just write about what I would give these people if I had an infinite amount of resources. If you guys don’t think this is enough, remember, it’s the thought that counts.
This miniature firecracker from Cebu has been one of the few bright spots for the surprisingly struggling UST Tigresses. You’d think that with a lineup laden with veterans and a game-changing recruit that UST would be on the fast track back to the Final Four. Instead, they get basically nothing from their two most popular vets in Pamela Lastimosa (who turned in a scoreless performance against the Lady Falcons) and Carmela Tunay, thus the Tigresses are spiraling towards another forgettable season.
You’d think that with a Beach Volleyball MVP sitting on the bench that this would be less of a puzzling lineup upheaval for Coach Odjie Mamon to make, but the thing with Rondina is, she is really short. While you barely notice it with her otherworldly leaping ability and cat-like reflexes, the Tigresses do take quite a hit with their blocking as she doesn’t really get off the floor as high without a running start.
So as a late Christmas gift, I’d love to give her:
That would make her grow just a few more inches (ideally up to 5’8) so she can immediately supplant her floundering teammates on the starting lineup. If she was any taller you know that it would be less of a conversation with who starts for the Tigresses.
But even if Rondina never grows another inch, she is nowhere near a lost cause as she has Shiela Pineda’s career to pattern on. Pineda was never the tallest girl on the team but she was always the hardest worker who just also happened to be gifted with the bounce of a jumping jellybean. The impressive thing with Rondina is she leaps a lot more effortlessly than Pineda ever did and has more bang in her hits. And Rondina is already more fun to watch than half of the UAAP, celebrating each won point like she just got a call from bossing. So while UST has a long line of imposing tall figures in Maizo, Balse, Ortiz, etc., UST’s coaching staff needs to get their eyes checked if they have Cherry anchored on the bench.
UST MVT, WVT, and RP National MVT Team Head Coach Odjie Mamon
Speaking of UST, Coach Mamon has arguably been the hardest working man in the league, mentoring both the UST Women’s Volleyball Program but the Men’s Program as well. While his ladies have been struggling, the Men’s team has been flourishing under his guidance. The Tigers have whipped teams en route to a 4-1 record, just slightly ahead of Adamson, who holds an identical record but are behind on won sets. The Tigers are in the Top 4 in all major skills categories (Spiking, Blocking, Serving, Recieving, Digging, and Setting) and have two of the league’s top 5 scorers in league leader Mark Alfafara and fourth ranked Romnick Rico not to mention that they have been the only team to push the defending champions, National U, to a loss in their five set thriller. Last season, this same Tigers struggled against fellow contenders as teams knew that they relied heavily on Mark Alfafara to carry the grunt of the offensive load. This season Coach Odjie decided to use more of his players as fellow veteran and team captain, Romnick Rico and Middle Blocker, Jason Sarabia, have taken most of the scoring responsibility from Alfafara, allowing for a looser and more dynamic Thomasian offense while also tapping some of their newer recruits to produce when the starters begin to look lackadaisical.
Between the UST teams and the Men’s National Squad, Coach Mamon really needs a spa day or maybe even a vacation on a beach somewhere. So as a late Christmas gift, I’d love to give him:
AdU MVT Coach Domingo Custodio
To the Men’s Volleyball faithful, Coach Domeng is most well known for his boisterous displays of agony and jubilation on the sidelines. This season, he has toned his antics down by just a notch, and instead of wilting the floor whenever his team plays faulty, he stomps down to the team’s water cooler and swigs down a glass full of water. And given the number of rookies and juniors he plays, his team is still very prone to the occasional lapses of focus. That’s why as a gift, I would like to give him:
But, his team has always been able to pull through when things mattered most. After an opening day loss to the defending champs, Adamson has reeled off four straight wins including an upset over last season’s runner-up Ateneo Blue Eagles. Though his team is generally young and undersized, Coach Custodio has had his team playing elite level defense, leading the league in blocks and is second in digging and receiving, while still boasting a top 4 spiking output.
But while his team has looked dominant in their wins, there will still be some growing pains as they thread through the season and more teams get to scout their offense. Their final two matches are against the no. 2 ranked UST Tigers and the always-dangerous FEU Tamaraws so it’s a really good idea to get Coach his own water jug or maybe even his own water dispenser so his players don’t run out.
Jessica Galanza and the Adamson Lady FalconsSpeaking of Adamson, the Lady Falcons themselves have looked dominant after dropping their first two games against both of last year’s finalists. Powered by strong performances from former bench players, the Lady Falcons have earned their 3-2 ranking by blowing past UE, FEU, and UST. Leading the charge for Adamson are their second year players, Jessica Galanza and Mylene Paat, ranked 7th and 6th in total points scored, respectively. Paat has slipped in to her new role as an outside hitter rather seamlessly as her height and unorthodox style has proved to be a tough puzzle to solve for teams who aren’t equipped for a specimen like her.
Galanza, on the other hand, might be the biggest surprise in a team full of surprising performers. After riding the bench all of last season, to now being relied on to provide the bulk of the offense for her team is quite a turnaround. Many thought that the loss of Adamson’s top two scorers in Pineda and Zapanta would hamper this team from making any sort of noise but Galanza’s breakout season has allowed them a clear shot at a Final four slot as no one really saw this sort of production out of Gemma. Which brings me to my gift for her:
In an interview with Adamson Coach Sherwn Meneses, he confessed that he was most worried about Gemma’s weight heading into the holiday vacation. As I’d hate for my alma mater to lose any steam en route to a Final Four appearance, all I can do is hope Galanza doesn’t go all-in on her holiday meals and lose any of her explosiveness on the court.
UE Coach Francis Vicente’s Coaching Style
Now, I want to change pace and thank UE Coach Francis Vicente for bringing any semblance of volleyball competence into his new volleyball program. In my season primers, I mentioned that UE sorely lacked any sort of volleyball winning culture that would ease talent acquisition and development for them. By all measures, Coach Vicente’s addition is godsend for the Lady Warriors, as they may not look like it now, but they’ve made sneaky good lineup choices, including the addition of Roselle Baliton, they’re rookie middle blocker and currently eight in blocking in the league. She’s incredibly tall and just in need of a bit more polishing with her footwork and court awareness.
UE still also has a core of young players in Shaya Adorador and Angela Dacaymat and with the disciplinary hand of Coach Vicente, it might not be too long of a wait for UE’s first win.
Speaking of coaching, a lot of people are irked by Coach Vicente’s style on the sideline where he gets on his players case really hard. But that’s how he’s always been and that’s how some of the best coaches have been with their players. And there really is no direct evidence to prove what really works as far as coaching the best out of players go. Coach Bundit might seem like a jolly type of gut on sideline interviews, but ask around, and no one pushes his players harder in practice than Coach Tai does to his. UP Coach, Jerry Yee once just had his girls run laps during a timeout to get them to focus and FEU Coach, Shaq Delos Santos, refused to talk to his players in more than a few timeouts this season. So there really hasn’t been a definitive style to coaching, nor will there ever be one.
Aside from these, this season has spread a lot of cheer around the UAAP volleyball scene, as I really can’t remember a season that has been followed so closely by so many fans as much as this season has been. But I think I’m on the same boat with most fans who wish they had a time machine to travel to March for the impending Ateneo-La Salle Women’s Final and the NU Bulldog’s three-peat.