January 30 – a date marked on the calendars of volleyball fans across the country, as they anticipate the furious rallies and sky-high spikes to set courts ablaze once more with the opening of UAAP Season 78 Women’s Volleyball.
With mere days to go before the country’s top collegiate teams hit the court, anticipation and excitement are already sky-high, as many of the schools’ athletes have spent the off-months honing their skills in local and foreign tournaments, promising a more competitive season all-around.
The first round schedule has been released and fans are already eyeing some of the great match-ups and rivalries, with Adamson kicking off the season with a match against UE on the 30th of January, followed by the FEU Lady Tamaraws facing off with the DLSU Lady Spikers. Two great games will be slated for the next day with the UST Tigresses competing against the UP Lady Maroons, which will be followed by the season debut of the two-time defending champion Ateneo against the powerhouse NU Lady Bulldogs.
The much awaited rematch of last year’s finals between rivals Ateneo and DLSU will serve as the first round’s grand finale on February 28.
Here are a few things to look forward to for the first round of the UAAP Season 78 Women’s Volleyball.
With the young superstar and reigning back-to-back MVP Alyssa Valdez leading the Lady Eagles on her final UAAP season, the Katipunan-based squad are looking to come out on top once again and complete a 3-peat.
Valdez will be faced with a huge task of carrying a squad that has seen the departure of key players Denden Lazaro, Ella De Jesus, and Aerial Patnongon. In addition, hitter Michelle Morente will also be out of the line-up due to academic concerns.
Despite this, Ateneo has already proven to be capable of overcoming adversity when it nabbed the Season 76 title following the departure of their famed Fab-5 of Jem Ferrer, Fille Cainglet, Gretchen Ho, Dzi Gervacio, and A Nacachi.
“I think it’s the same when Ate Fille and the other seniors left,” said Lazaro on Ateneo’s prospects for the season. “That was our core team at the time. When they left and coach Roger (Gorayeb) left, it was a struggle for us but somehow we made it work.”
Will Ateneo’s heart strong mantra be enough to keep the crown in Katipunan?
Perennial title contenders De La Salle Lady Spikers were denied the crown last year for the second-straight season. However, one thing they have always been known for is that their squads are always ready to compete. This ‘Palaban!’ attitude has now become their rally cry for this upcoming season especially after several of their key players are sidelined due to injuries.
Skipper Ara Galang is looking to bounce back this season after healing from the left knee injury she acquired in last year’s semifinals, cutting her campaign short. Camille Cruz also went down with an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear on her right knee in last year’s finals series. As if that wasn’t enough, Desiree Cheng will also be out this season due to a left knee injury she acquired during a provincial exhibition game last June.
However, the Lady Spikers appear ready to fill the void left by their injured stars by capitalizing on their player’s skills and sound team strategies. Mika Reyes, Kim Fajardo, and Cyd Demecillo, with most of DLSU’s core, also benefitted from their time playing in the Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix under head coach Ramil De Jesus. In addition, Fajardo and Demecillo was recently able to bring DLSU a title after a successful UAAP Beach Volleyball campaign.
Will DLSU have enough firepower to carry them to the top?
The UST Tigresses, UP Lady Maroons, and NU Lady Bulldogs will need their young stars to lead their teams to greater heights this season. With the squads already viewed as title contenders, a great gameplan and role players stepping up could be what they need to take them all the way to capturing the Gold.
One of UST scoring threats Pam Lastimosa will be out this season with an ACL injury she acquired from practice last month. Last year’s Rookie of the Year EJ Laure, together with Carmela Tunay, will have to shoulder much of UST’s scoring this season. The Tigresses will also benefit from national team member Ria Meneses play as well as beach volleyball star Cherry Rondina and Jessey De Leon.
Jaja Santiago and Myla Pablo of the Lady Bulldogs are also returning to their squad after their stint with the national team. NU was a serious contender last season and the learning experience of their two stars from playing on the global stage can be a huge lift for their team to finally capture the elusive UAAP crown.
From recruiting young talents this season, the improved play of Nicole Tiamzon, and Kathy Bersola coming back in the lineup from injury, the UP Lady Maroons are looking to surge in the rankings after knocking on the championship’s doors for so long. This season, they might just have enough talent to take their game, and their squad, to the next level.