DOC VOLLEYBALL: An Unpredictably Exciting Season
AJ Pareja on May 04, 2018 09:57 AM
In the end, the NU Bulldogs ended a title drought while the DLSU Lady Spikers completed their third grand slam in the last two decades.
And it finally comes to a close. Season 80 of the UAAP volleyball, from its opening game up to the very last point of the season, will be remembered as the most unexpected and exciting year for Philippine Collegiate Volleyball. While most other competitors had a good share of ups and downs, the emerging champions NU Bulldogs and DLSU Lady Spikers proved to be just a cut above the rest in exerting volleyball dominance.
Tired of a three-peat runner-up finish, the National Univeristy Bulldogs finally claimed the glory by snatching the crown from perennial rivals, the Ateneo Blue Eagles. With both teams having a shared rivalry once as cellar dwellers and now as championship contenders, the rivalry between NU and Ateneo in men's volleyball has been a wonder to see evolve. For Season 80, the Bulldogs finally left a mark by serving up height, athleticism, and cohesion to dominate the men's division.
In their finals match against the Blue Eagles, the Bulldogs showed exemplary net play in terms of offense led by eventual Finals MVP Bryan Bagunas. With King Blue Eagle Marco Espejo relegated to the opposite position, NU coach Dante Alinsunurin’s choice to field in Madzlan Gampong proved to be beneficial in checking Ateneo’s offensive behemoth. Though still capable of producing his usual output, Espejo was closed down on key situations, giving confidence boosters to the NU wall as well as compensating for their floor defense, which was relatively their disadvantage.
Perhaps the other contributing factor in NU’s victory was how the Blue Eagles were not able to maximize on their skill advantages such as service and blocking. In both finals matches, Ateneo was not able to capitalize on the passing of NU with aggressive serving leading to clean execution of offensive plays from the latter. In instances where the Blue Eagles were making a rally and even obtaining a Game 2 set, it was highly evident that their blocking was significantly altering the hitting tendencies of NU, but Ateneo was not able to stay consistent with such tactic.
Over in the ladies division, the finals match-up of the two powerhouse squads, the De La Salle Lady Spikers and the FEU Lady Tamaraws, was highly consistent with the theme of the encounters throughout the season. With the two best serving and passing teams in the league, it was expected that both teams would bring out the best in each other and that was just what both teams did in the Finals series.
In both encounters during the elimination season, the Lady Tamaraws were able to challenge the passing efficiency of the Lady Spikers by giving them a taste of their own medicine which was aggressive serving. In the instances that FEU was able to subdue La Salle in their encounters, it was because of well placed heavy serves that negate the threat of middles Majoy Baron and Aduke Ogunsanya. In similar fashion, Season 80 Best Blocker Celine Domingo was also able to pose a significant defensive threat in the net due to the team’s ability to disrupt oponent attack patterns through aggresive serving.
Coming into the Finals series, it can be considered that both FEU and DLSU are the most balanced teams in the league. With starters who are notable in producing points in every rotation, the biggest factor for both teams would be the ability of the middles to execute as Baron was capable of racking up the points left unchecked and Domingo was essential in running FEU’s bread and butter combination plays. As such, the main determining factor in the outcome of the finals series was who could out-serve who given both team's proficiency in both serving and passing.
True enough, the Lady Spikers proved that they were the better serving team as they were able to establish a tight wall defense to check The Lady Tamaraws’ offense. Consistent with their elimination round encounters, FEU’s inability to execute the set given a substantial lead combined with La Salle’s tenacity to thrive under pressure eventually won the Lady Spikers the crown.
The exit of big names such as Dy, Baron, Bernadeth Pons, Dawn Macandili, Jaja Santiago, Jho Maraguinot, Jema Galanza, Mylene Paat and Shaya Adorador to name a few would spell some concern for their respective teams ,but would serve as a challenge and inspiration for newcomers to reach the achievements of their predecessors.
In similar fashion, teams left with solid line-ups like UST and UP would have better chances to dominate albeit higher expectations. In line with that, familiarization with more foreign coaching ideologies from the likes of Air Padda and Gody Okumu will further elevate the level of the sport in the women's division.
On the other hand, an intact champion in the NU Bulldogs as well as contender FEU Tamaraws will ensure dominance for both. As such,the exit of inarguably one of the best tandems in UAAP history, that of Ish Polvorosa and Espejo, would entail a tough challenge for Ateneo to produce new outstanding inclusions in order to maintain their place in the upper echelons of the league.