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Volleyball superstars venture to new but familiar territory



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Last Tuesday, two of the country’s most accomplished volleyball players returned to the collegiate ranks to try a different field.

Two-time UAAP champion Denden Lazaro and former UAAP MVP Michele Gumabao took to the NCAA broadcasting booths to serve as analysts for the Final Four matches.

One of the best liberos in the country, Lazaro admitted that calling matches on live television had really shaken her nerves, adding that being with veteran commentator Andrei Felix allowed her to adjust the more they got into the San Beda – Arellano match they were calling.

“Sobrang nakakakaba pero thanks to Kuya Andrei nakaraos ako. He made me feel more comfortable doing the commentating and the analysis of the game,” she said. “It’s my first time to watch NCAA games live and I’m really thankful that I was able to cover it as an analyst. Iba pala talaga ‘yung feeling when you’re watching and analyzing rather than when you’re playing. For me, mas nakakakaba talaga.”

Lazaro had made her broadcasting debut in the Philippine Superliga, but admitted that just being around the collegiate game made her miss playing for Ateneo.

“Gusto ko na nga sana lumapit kanina sa court tapos maglaro. Among anything, I just miss the feeling for your school and playing for school pride. I’m looking forward to calling more games in the semifinals and then the Finals.”

Among the broadcast team, Lazaro was the earliest to arrive at the FilOil Flying V Centre to do research and interview players.

“I really had to do research kasi di ko pa kilala lahat ng players. Also, di rin talaga ako sanay sa Men’s style ng volleyball kasi it’s a lot faster and they’re more creative when it comes to plays kasi nga they’re more agile and they jump a lot higher. It’s very different from the women’s game.”

NEXT PAGE: Philips Golds’ Michele Gumabao >>

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Gumabao, on the other hand, commentated on the stepladder knockout match between the CSB Lady Blazers and the Perpetual Lady Altas alongside play-by-play savant Anton Roxas.

Although she had broacasted matches before for the Shakey’s V-League, Gumabao still had nerves over going on live television. Just minutes into the broadcast, Gumabo had already gotten her moment, getting clocked by a ball while doing the pregame talk.

“You’re always on edge when you’re on live TV so you’re always going to have to be one step ahead of whatever you say. But as the game goes on and just having Anton there with me made it so much easier… That (getting hit by a ball) is definitely memorable. During the broadcast nga me and Anton were joking about it already. It just goes to show anything really can happen when you’re live.”

For Gumabao, analyzing matches came naturally, as she has always analyzed herself, whether while watching on tape or during the game. She had also started coaching last year in her own volleyball program, the Michele Gumabao Volleyball Camp, and she currently heads the Alaska volleyball department, all of which has helped with being tactful while on air.

“Being a volleyball player, your experience just goes hand in hand with what you’re saying. I’m trying to comment but not be too judgemental. I’ve been there, I’ve heard what the sports analysts said with our games,” Gumabao explained. “There are good and bad things that were said so I’m just trying to remember those things that I wanted to and didn’t want to hear.”

“As a player din, you tend to analyze yourself a lot. So now, it’s just a matter of changing the perspective. And I also started coaching recently, so that helps me gauge and comment on a person’s performance.”

Working with Roxas, Gumabao said, was a fruitful learning experience. “Anton and Andrei have been doing this for the longest time and I was just really trying to learn from them with how they talk. They’re just really fluid. It’s amazing how they can do it without a script. Especially with Anton I just really learned to know what you’re talking about. Grabe siya magresearch before the games. I’m really looking forward to learning a lot more from them,” the former La Salle Lady Spiker closed.

The notoriously harsh volleyball crowd seemed pleased with how both volleyball superstars called the matches, eliciting positive reviews across the board and helping the NCAA trend on Twitter.

NEXT PAGE: Petron Blaze Spikers’ Aby Marano >>

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Former DLSU team captain, Abigail Maraño made her debut last, calling the Perpetual-Benilde Men’s Final Four tiff with Anton Roxas.

Graduating from DLSU with a Filpino Mass Communication Major in Philippine Studies degree, Maraño already had an idea of what to do on air despite being the only former volleybelle without previous broadcasting experience.

Still, the usually confident and fiery former MVP couldn’t prevent her nerves from taking over especially early in the game.

“This is a new experience for me so nakakakaba talaga kasi I really wanted to do well and not let the team around me down. Buti pa kung ako ‘yung maglalaro, kahit nakapikit ako magagawa ko siya. Kailangan ko pa talaga mag practice,” Maraño remarked after the game.

Among the new panelists, Maraño had the toughest debut with the match dragging into five heated sets.

“Parang I was thrown straight into the fire talaga. But it was really fun, pagdating noong mga later sets, I felt more comfortable.”

Known for her fiery on-court demeanor, Tyang wanted to show off a different side.

“Gusto ko ipakita na hindi naman ako laging BMDC. May side din ako na witty and approachable. I really appreciated how Anton Roxas eased me into this. Sobrang laking tulong niya with helping me get things that I want to say out. Sobrang professional niya rin,” said Maraño.

Moreover, the athlete/restaurateur closed in saying that their experience adds a new dimension to the booth. “I think naman na being a player it is our advantage since we know very well the in-depth understanding of the sport that we are going to analyze. Kasi nilalaro namin siya.”


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.

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