PVL: High school stars holding the fort for the Purest Water Defenders
ABS-CBN Sports on May 19, 2018 03:13 PM
Believe it -- Seven exceptionally talented high school players of Nazareth School of the National University, backstopped by two American imports, make up the core of BaliPure-NU in the high-powered tourney that is the ongoing second season of the Premier Volleyball League. (Photo by Eileen Araza)
BaliPure-NU coach Babes Castillo and team consultant Gil Cortez never lost their cool even in the face of the Purest Water Defenders’ impending defeat at the hands of the Philippine Navy-Iriga City Lady Oragons right in their first game on May 9 in the Premier Volleyball League.
The Water Defenders snatched a set before going down in four, 23-25, 23-25, 25-22, 19-25, but Castillo, aptly described as the coolest coach in the UAAP nowadays, and Cortez took heart from the way their girls had gallantly waged war and made the opposition sweat for every point.
How right to think of the Purest Water Defenders as still girls. After all, the seven who form the core of the team have yet to play in UAAP women’s volleyball. Only four of them are to join the NU Lady Bulldogs in the next season of the UAAP; the rest will stay to carry on NU’s winning tradition in UAAP high school volleyball also under coach Castillo.
The Magnificent Seven – Mhicaela Belen, Joyme Cagande, Jennifer Nierva (5-9½), Alyssa Solomon (6-¼), Ivy Lacsina (6-¼) and Princess Robles – have three or four UAAP junior championships each under their belts. Belen, UAAP high school Finals MVP last season Nisperos from Davao City and former Palarong Pambansa MVP Solomon from Sta. Rosa will take up the cudgels when the Lady Bullpups defend their UAAP junior title next season.
Back to that May 9 game.
Playing with only one import in American Alexis Matthews as against the two on the Lady Oragons’ side – Macy Ubben of Iowa and Lauren Whyte of Ohio who exploded with 44 points between themselves -- the Purest Water Defenders did not allow the opposition any breathing space before they gave up the ghost.
Not to denigrate Matthews’ 15-point output but high school holdover Belen even went two points higher with 17 and Robles, another UAAP junior MVP, also turned in 15.
Wednesday last a second import joined BaliPure in its second match against the Petro Gazz Angels. Janisa Johnson sent shock waves across the eight-team field by debuting with 31 points. With Robles showing consistency by amassing 17 and Matthews chipping in 15, the Purest Water Defenders sewed up victory in a thrilling five-setter despite 46 errors.
“Our spiking is still off,” noted Castillo after his charges evened their record at 1-1. “We made so many errors but we will take the win.”
Cortez, team manager Paolo Turno and the BaliPure top brass around vigorously exchanged high fives as Johnson scored the last point that broke the backs of the Petro Gazz Angels.
“It is only just and right that Babes (Castillo) took over the BaliPure reins vacated by Roger (Gorayeb, now head coach of PayMaya),” said Cortez. “All our local players are his players on the NU women’s and girls’ squads. There is continuity this way.”
The rest of the Purest Water Defenders save for Rica Diolan – Roma Joy Doromal, Roselyn Doria, Audrey Paran and libero Gaile Valdez – played under Castillo in his debut in the UAAP senior division as head coach of the Lady Bulldogs, whom he brought back to the Final Four last season.
Diolan is a product of Castillo’s high school program for NU who played her freshman year in the UAAP senior division under then coach Gorayeb. She did not appear in the Lady Bulldogs’ lineup the next season but will be back, according to Castillo, in UAAP 81 as his player.
Completing BaliPure’s coaching staff are assistant coaches Regine Diego and Franz Damian and therapist/trainer Rafael Magno.