Four generations of Growling Tigers represented in returning PLDT squad

ABS-CBN Sports on May 23, 2018 12:06 PM
Generations of UST stars represented in returning PLDT squad
Eight mainstays and six newcomers make up the composition of the PLDT Ultra Hitters for the second season of the Premier Volleyball League. Odjie Mamon (seventh from right, standing) stays as head coach. (Photo by Eileen Araza)

Two consecutive losses greeted the comebacking powerhouse PLDT Ultra Hitters. Rather than be disheartened, the shocking setbacks to Philippine Air Force and Instituto Estetico Manila in that order instead primed them up for a swift retribution.  

When victory was finally had in their third outing, it was oh so sweet coming as it did at the expense of 2017 Premier Volleyball League double champions Cignal HD Hitters, heavy favorites among the six-team cast   

A look at the PLDT scoreboard listed these top contributors: Mark Alfafara 29 points, Johnvic de Guzman 21, Henry Pecana 11 and Jayvee Sumagaysay 11.   

Save for the consistently productive de Guzman, a sterling product of the College of St. Benilde, the other three top scorers against Cignal represent three generations of the University of Sto. Tomas Growling Tigers, each generation separated from the other by at least four UAAP seasons.   

Pecana and Harby Ilano, both 28, and stars of that famous UST four-peat under coach Emil Lontoc, are the most senior former Tigers in coach Odjie Mamon’s lineup, followed by Alfafara, who caught the last of that storied UST four-peat on his rookie year when he was, he said, still a bench warmer. 

Sumagaysay and Joshua Umandal, 19, are the latest additions from UST and among the six who are joining the Ultra Hitters for the first time. The two are still eligible to play in the UAAP, much more so Umandal who will only be a sophomore in the upcoming season of the nation’s most popular university league.     

Umandal debuted in the UAAP last year as a Growling Tiger under Mamon as assistant coach and Alfafara as assistant coach and trainer. 

But who represents the fourth-generation Growling Tigers?

It’s coach Mamon no less.

He sat as assistant coach when head mentor Lontoc guided the Tigers to those four straight UAAP championships.


Two-year hiatus     

“We are excited to return to the V League fold,” said Pecana of the Ultra Hitters who, after winning one Conference of the Sports Vision-organized Spikers’ Turf in 2015, took a self-imposed sabbatical. “You can just imagine how hungry we are to take part in the second year of the PVL.”

The other newbies on the team besides Sumagaysay and Umandal are Jethro Orian, a recruit from St. Benilde, Ronchette Villegas, Rence Melgar and Joven dela Vega.

The other carryovers from the original roster are Patrick Vecina, Ronjay Galang, Kheeno Franco and Gilbert Longavela.

Pecana, Ilano, Vecina, Galang, Franco and Longavela are organic players, meaning, they are also employees of PLDT at the same time.  

Irwin de Guzman sits as team manager, Jan Paul Doloiras and Rolando Casillan as assistant coaches, and Jonathan Dumada-ug as therapist/trainer.

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