First-timers dominate V-League special awardees
Special awardees all: (L-R, front row) Remy Palma, 2nd Best Middle Blocker; Toni Rose Basas, Best Opposite Spiker; Isa Molde, 1st Best Outside Spiker; Jia Morado, Best Setter; Gizelle Tan, Best Libero; Jorelle Singh, 2nd Best Outside Spiker; and Jaja Santiago, season’s MVP and 1st Best Middle Blocker. Back row: (L-R) Ghena Austero, Shakey’s Pizza marketing manager; Jorge Concepcion, Shakey’s general manager; Dino Laurena, head of ABS-CBN Integrated Sports; Tony Boy Liao, V-League tournament director; and Ricky Palou, Sports Vision president.
The tallest and the shortest of the eight special awardees honored at the ceremony concluding the resoundingly successful Shakey’s V-League Season 13-Collegiate Conference were repeaters. All the rest were first-timers.
Six-foot-five, now two-time season’s MVP Jaja Santiago of back-to-back champion National University, also repeated as 1st Best Middle Blocker for the second straight year.
Pint-sized marvel Gizelle Tan made history by being the league’s only player to have won both the Best Setter and the Best Libero awards. She bagged the first (Best Setter) in the 12th season last year.
The rest of the eight winners of nine individual awards making up the 2016 batch of the V-League Collegiate Conference honor roll were stunned, to say the least, when informed that they were to receive a special citation, their first ever in this, the nation’s most followed tournament in women’s volleyball.
Through 13 seasons, the V-League, a brainchild of Sports Vision, has attracted a slew of loyal supporters such as Accel, the official outfitter, and Mikasa, the official ball.
The breakthrough awardees are Ma. Lina Isabel Molde of the University of the Philippines (1st Best Outside Spiker); Jorelle Singh of NU (2nd Best Outside Spiker); Julia Morado of Ateneo (Best Setter); Mary Remy Joy Palma of FEU (2nd Best Middle Blocker); Toni Rose Basas also of FEU (Best Opposite Spiker).
Converted Lady Bulldog setter Jasmine Nabor, who had watched the seven receive their trophies from the sidelines, got her Finals MVP award two hours later after her team again outlasted the tenacious Lady Blue Eagles in another nail-biting five setter to sweep their battle-for-the-gold playoff and keep the title.
Coach Edjet Mabbayad’s charges took Game 1, 25-21, 19-25, 23-25, 25-18, 18-16, on Monday and repeated in Game 2 two days later, 19-25, 25-18, 25-22, 21-25, 15-4, before another full gallery who left Philsports Arena in Pasig City limp in excitement.
Speechless then talkative
At least an hour before Game 2, each of the individual awardees without Nabor yet, were generally speechless when told they had won an award, then became joyous and talkative when they were brought together to sit on what was used as team bench during the game.
It was heartwarming to watch these exceptionally talented women bury their sometimes bitter animosities on the court, hugging, kissing and congratulating one another in infectious glee and pride. Before long as they took their seats, they began prattling like gossipy schoolgirls, most especially Santiago and Morado.
But Basas, seated on the leftmost side of the bench, was curiously quiet. “Na-overwhelm lang po ako kaya medyo tulala pa,” she said. “First award ko po ito at sa Shakey’s V-League pa nangyari. Solo ko pa, walang second best,” added the Best Opposite Spiker before she reverted back to her reverie.
Seated in between Santiago and Palma, Singh was her usual giggly, bubbly self. Palma, still reeling from the Lady Tamaraws’ four-straight loss to the Lady Fightings Maroons earlier that cost them the bronze medal, was a bit restrained in her celebration of her award.
“I don’t know what to feel…I’m still at a loss for words,” said the history-making Tan after the awarding. She had her fingers full setting for Alyssa Valdez & Co., taking over from the injured Morado in the Collegiate Conference last year and eventually clinching the Best Setter plum.
The UP community, now a cheering force to reckon with, broke into a tumultuous applause when Molde, a prized find from Catmon, Cebu where Grethcel Soltones also came from, was first called to accept her award.
Everyone roared in approval when Santiago, already honored as 1st Best Middle Blocker, was announced as the season MVP. She enormously deserved the top special prize.
Up in the ringside, her mom, sister, brother, sister-in-law and four-year-old nephew were tearing up, pride overflowing in their hearts for one of their own.