Season 78 saw the De La Salle University Lady Spikers reclaim the crown from erstwhile rivals Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles after 2 bridesmaid finishes in Season 76 and 77.
With big names such as Alyssa Valdez, Ara Galang, Mika Reyes using up all of their 5 years of eligibility in the UAAP, the ballgame has become pretty much an even playing field come Season 79. Several teams will parade new faces in the starting line up while teams such as FEU and UST are tagged as favorites because of an in-tact and mature line up. Most analyst are saying that at least 6 teams have a shot at making it into the Season 79 Finals unlike in the seasons past wherein one or two teams dominate.
Opening game day weekend last Feb. 4 and 5 saw all 8 teams battle the UAAP Volleyball courts anew and, boy, was it unpredictable as predicted. LOL. Here are some thoughts after watching the games:
- Two teams marked as final contenders lost their opening game assignments. Shocker!
- UST Golden Tigresses won a pre-season tournament – Unigames 2016 in Dumaguete – most pundits hyped this team in articles, forums, social media, and interviews.
- FEU Lady Tamaraws lost only one key player last year – Gyzelle Sy – leaving big shoes to fill for Kyle Negrito and Angel Cayuna. Their loss to La Salle last Feb. 5 exposed their weakness in the playmaking side and it didn’t help that unforced errors beset the girls in Green and Gold all throughout the match.
- UE Lady Warriors are no pushovers anymore. Ateneo’s hepi-hepi mantra seemed to have rubbed off on the UE girls because they are playing so happily this season. Their aura is much lighter; moves much better on court, offense and defense wise. They have the tallest setter in the league now – former middle blocker Roselle Baliton and she held her own, to be fair.
- UP Lady Maroons are probably in harvest period after several seasons of planting the seeds. They looked lethal in their opening game versus Adamson BUT it’s yet to be tested against stronger, equally in-tact teams in the league.
- Adamson Lady Falcons – young, inexperienced team; only Jema Galanza, Joy Dacoron and War Mohamad returned for another tour of duty. The girls are quite short compared to ladies from other teams. This team is lucky to be backed financially by Akari so they were able to get the services of Coach Air Padda and her crew of decorated volleybelles Cherry Macatangay, Michele Gumabao, and Angge Tabaquero. The American coach has been honest in saying they are after experience for the girls this season so no expectations there.
- Ateneo Lady Eagles lost main gun Alyssa Valdez to graduation leaving Jho Maraguinot as heir apparent. Kat Tolentino was a revelation in their game vs UST despite 3 ACL injuries in the past. What surprised many was the improvement of Gizelle Tan in the defense and reception department. She handled the serves and strong attacks of UST like a piece of cake.
- Despite playing erratic, the DLSU Lady Spikers were able to snag the game from FEU in 3 hotly contested sets. Outside hitters production was definitely the missing link in this game and it showed the lack of confidence in the game of Tin Tiamzon and the predictability of attacks from Des Cheng. May Luna looked heavier and slower in this game. What saved the ladies in green and white is the leadership of Majoy Baron as she led in attacks and blocks holding her own against Remy Palma. KKD was clutch in this game cementing the reason why she won the Finals MVP the year prior.
These are initial observation of the 8 teams and some players at the start of the season. It is still a long way to go and many things can still happen. As mentioned above, it can only get more exciting what with the unpredictability and emergence of some teams.
More news and commentaries coming your way as the brand new season unfolds.