Quick preview: UAAP men's volleyball teams

Mark Escarlote on Jan 30, 2016 04:27 PM
Quick preview: UAAP men's volleyball teams
Expect a grind it out battle when seven other teams challenge the might of the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles in UAAP men's volleyball tournament Season 78.

The UAAP volleyball season is not just about the intensity and rivalry of the women’s division.

Even the men’s competition is picking up a great deal of following.

Expect a grind it out battle when seven other teams challenge the might of the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles in Season 78.

Here's a quick look at the teams competing in the tournament.

 

University of the East Red Warriors

Titles won: 12

Last title won: Season 44 (1981-82)

Season 77 record: 0-14 (8th)

Head coach:  Ruel Pascual

Winless last season, University of the East wants to leave its painful past behind and start out fresh.

The Recto-based squad will parade a young team composed of four rookies and 10 holdovers led by team captain and last year’s Rookie of the Year Edward Camposano.

“Ready na kaming manalo, ready na kaming lumaban. Last year hindi e. Mahirap na ikaw lang ang may puso na manalo and ‘yung iba masabi lang na naglalaro sa team,” said Camposano, a member of the national team that played in the 2015 Asian U-23 Championships in Myanmar and in the 28th Singapore Southeast Asian Games. “Mas ready na kaming manalo. Mas buo kami ngayon kaysa last year.”

“Lalaban kami. Siguro mas magle-level up kami this season,” he added.

Back to give support to Camposano are Samuel Lelic, Angelu Noel Alba, Roniey Adviento and setter Christian Gopio.  Injected to the young squad are Ruvince Abrot, playmaker Adrian Imperial, Geric Rodmar Ortega and Patrick Yen Cheung – all part of former UAAP high school champion Junior Warriors, which dominated the competition for 11 straight years from 2004 to 2014.

   

University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons 

Titles won: 4

Last title won: Season 43 (1980-81, the last of UP’s four-peat)

Season 77 record: 4-10 (7th)

Head coach: Rod Palmero

University of the Philippines this season will have an equal mix of rookies and veterans with one specific goal: to bring the Fighting Maroons in the Final Four and see where they’ll go from there.       

Power-hitting Alfred Valbuena will be back to skipper UP together with last year’s team captain Evan Raymundo and other holdovers Wendel Miguel, Gian San Pascual, Jerry San Pedro, Lorenzo Trinidad and Charles Acuna.

Claret high school recruit libero John Miguel Nasol, setter Jerahmeel Baldelovar and John Mark Millete are the young bloods projected to join the Maroons’ starting six.

“Basically ang character ng bawat isa sa team ngayon ay more on kailangan lang ng mga senior players to step up and guide the younger players this UAAP season,” said Baldelovar, who will fill the shoes left by Joshua Diaz and Paulo Nicandro. “Very balanced ang composition ng team kalahati ng maglalaro seniors and kalahati rookies.”

“Ang main target talaga namin ay first enter the Final Four and from then saka na naming iisipin ang mga bagay na pwede naming magawa,” he added. “But for now an talagang target naming ay makabalik sa Final Four.”

UP’s last stint in the Final Four was back in Season 73 where the Maroons finished third.

But from there UP dropped to sixth place the following year and was stuck at seventh place in the next three seasons.                     

De La Salle Green Archers     

Titles won: 2

Last title won: Season 66 (2003-04)

Season 77 record: 4-10 (6th)

Head coach: Ronald Dulay 

De La Salle is hoping to ride the crest of its pre-season success and continue its momentum in the UAAP.

The Green Archers, who won the University Games title last year, lost last season’s team captain and Season 75 Most Valuable Player Red Christensen.

But DLSU will see prolific scorer Raymark Woo back in action to lead the Taft-based squad after skipping Season 77 to fully recover from an ACL injury on his left knee.

Mike Frey, John Onia, and Cris Dumago will return to carry DLSU back in the Final Four after two consecutive forgettable season.                     

“Ako kampante naman ako na mari-reach namin ang Final Four. Kapag na-reach na namin ang Final Four ang susunod na namin ay championship,” said the very confident 20-year-old outside hitter Woo.

The Green Archers also landed a good batch of rookies to complement their seasoned holdovers.

But can Woo’s return turn DLSU’s campaign around? 

 

Far Eastern University Tamaraws

Titles won: 25

Last title won: Season 74 (2011-12)

Season 77 record: 6-8 (5th)

Head coach: Kid Santos 

Once the most feared squad in the league, Far Eastern University was pushed out of the top four last season and finished fifth after five consecutive Final Four appearances and winning the title four years ago.

Redemption will be the battle cry of the Tamaraws.

Five rookies made it to the roster of the Kid Santos-mentored team while Greg Dolor, Jeric Gacutan, Joshua Barrica and Lucky Margate as well as five other players from last season’s core will again campaign for the Morayta-based squad.

“Kaya naman naming (bumalik sa Final Four) ngayong season. Sisipagan lang namin at mas hihigitan pa ‘yung effort namin last year,” said Dolor, a member of the national team that saw action in the Asian U-23 tilt.

“Teamwork lang and maglaro kami as a team, ‘yung buo kaming maglaro para makuha namin yung goal namin,” he added.

The Tams biggest loss this season was the departure of starting setter Manolo Refugia.

Can the winningest men’s team – a total of 25 titles overall – take back their spot in the top four?

 

Adamson University Soaring Falcons

Titles won: 3

Last title won: Season 47 (1984-85)

Season 77 record: 10-4 (4th)

Head coach: Domingo Custodio 

Adamson will parade an intact lineup with only three rookies this season.

The Falcons finished fourth last year, losing to eventual champion Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles in the Final Four. 

Adamson is once again at a disadvantage when it comes to ceiling compared to other teams. But what the Falcons lack in height they make up with relentless floor defense.

Season 77 Best Receiver and Digger Rence Melgar is back in the fold together with one of the league’s top hitters Michael Sudaria, Dave Pletado and John Philip Yude.

“Ito naman lagi ang Adamson laging maliliit ang mma players, pero ang pinaghahandaan namin ay ‘yung floor defense namin, ‘yung liksi at ‘yung bilis ng bawat isa sa amin,” said Sudaria.

Sudaria is banking on his team’s cohesiveness and experience to equal if noyt surpass their ranking last year.

“Halos mga betranoi na kami kaya alam na namin ang technique kung paano tatalunin ang mga teams na mas matatangkad sa amin,” he said.

During the offseason, the Falcons defeated the National University Bulldogs in five sets to capture the Intercollegiate crown.

Adamson finished third in the University Games, losing to eventual champion De La Salle in five sets in the semis.

“Doon sa nakuha namin sa offseason mataas na ang morale ng team kaya sa tingin ko maganda ang kalalabasan ng season naming,” said Sudaria.

 

University of Sto. Tomas Tigers

Titles won: 18

Last title won: Season 73 (2010-2011)

Season 77 record: 11-3 (3rd)

Head coach: Odjie Mamon   

University of Sto. Tomas is out to erase the bad memory of last season’s semifinals meltdown.

The Tigers, who finished Season 77 elims with 11-3 card tied with Ateneo, were beaten twice by National University in the Final Four as the Bulldogs were able to stop UST by shackling its main hitter Mark Alfafara.

Alfafara exhausted all his playing years as well as last year’s team captain Romnick Rico but the departure of their main gunner could actually benefit the Espana-based squad.        

“Mas mai-execute namin ang mga plays namin and saka mas magagamit ko ang ibang tao,” said fifth year setter Paul Kirby Castillo. “Dati halos nagdi-depend na lang kami lagi kay Mark pero ngayon mas marami ng nagi-step up. Sobrang dami ko ng options na mabibigyan ng bola ngayon compared last year.”

Without a specific player to mark, UST now revolves around its whole lineup.      

“‘Yung mukha na ipo-portray ng team namin ngayon is ‘yung 14 (players), lahat kami,” Castillo added.

Jason Sarabia is also playing his last year for the Tigers. Other key returnees are Kris Roy Guzman, Patrick Balse, Arnold Bautista, and libero Mark Pangan while four newcomers made it in the roster.  

   

National University Bulldogs

Titles won: 2

Last title won: Season 76 (2013-14)

Season 77 record: 10-4 (runner up)

Head coach: Dante Alinsunurin

National University lost most of its core last year with only six returning for another stint with the Bulldogs.

The former two-time champions who were dethroned by Ateneo last year campaign to regain without heavyweights Peter Torres, Berlin Paglinawan, Rueben Inaudito, libero Mark Dizon, Edwin Tolentino, Fauzi Ismail and Josephenry Tipay. 

Veteran setter and team captain Vince Mangulabnan now carries the burden of leading his young pack of Bulldogs. But the fifth year player isn’t worried at all.

“Hindi naman ganoon kabigat ang pressure sa akin. Kasi as a senior may tiwala naman ako sa galing nila at nand’yan naman ang mga magagaling naming coach na alam ko po na kayang punan ang nawala last year,” he said. “Alam kong kaya naming ibalik kung ano kami last year, kung gaano ka-intact, kung gaano kabeterano at malaki ang tiwala ko sa mga kasama ko.”

Other returnees for NU are Bryan Bagunas, Ruben Baysac, Kim Dayandante, Kim Malabunga and Francis Saura.

Eight new faces will don the Bulldogs uniform. Mangulabnan believes that these young guns are ready to showcase their wares.

“Wala kaming ace spiker, wala kaming ace hitter pero lahat yan malalakas maglaro. Siyempre mga bata kaya ine-expect naman na aggressive ang mga yan. Wala silang aabangan na ace player dahil lahat ‘yan gagana,” he said.

 

Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles

Titles won: 1

Last title won: Season 77 (2014-15)

Season 77 record: 11-3 (champion)

Head coach: Oliver Almadro 

Expectations are high for the Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles.

The Loyola-based squad’s championship core remains intact led by back-to-back Most Valuable Player Marck Espejo.

Ateneo added former Juniors Most Valuable Player Ron Medalla, a recruit from University of the East, to its already heavy arsenal of hitters.

Season 77 Best Setter and Finals MVP Ish Polvorosa, Rex Intal, Joshua Villanueva, Ysay Marasigan, Karl Baysa, Ishmael Rivera, Dan Posadas and Jasper Tan are back for the Oliver Almadro-mentored squad. 

“Ang goal pa rin namin ay makapasok sa Final Four and then Finals ulit. Pero sabi naman ni coach na huwag kaming magmadali,” said Espejo.

Most of the Blue Eagles were able to take advantage of the opportunity to play for the national team under Almadro as they competed in the Asian U-23 and the Singapore Southeast Asian Games last year. Ateneo, which won the Spikers’ Turf Collegiate title last year, as a team traveled to Thailand to train.

“Strength and advantage namin ang mga international games pero depende pa rin kasi sa team ‘yun and sa players kung paano at gaano nila gustong manalo,” Espejo added.

With international exposures and an intact lineup it’s no wonder fans and the Ateneo community expect the Blue Eagles to once again soar. But Espejo and his teammates as much as possible just want to focus on their task ahead.

“Meron ding pressure kasi hindi naman maiiwasan yung expectations ng mga tao na nakapaligid sa atin and siyempre ang school,” said Espejo. “Pero siguro isantabi na lang namin ‘yun.”

 

 

 

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