LIFE’S A BALL: A look back at Philippine volleyball in 2017
Mark Escarlote on Dec 19, 2017 02:59 PM
Let's take a look back at the colorful Philippine volleyball in the year that's about to end.
Volleyball remains as the second most watched and much-anticipated ballgame in the country next to basketball.
From glorious victories, painful of defeats and controversies, we’ve been treated to another colorful year that saw us cheer, jeer and take our opinions and sides on this popular sport.
GLORY OF TRIUMPH
The year that will come to end, saw teams rose from adversities to savor the sweet, sweet taste of victory.
The NCAA started the year with the continuation of its 92nd volleyball season.
Just like the year before, San Sebastian College lorded it over the elimination round of the women’s competition. Behind eventual three-time Most Valuable Player Grethcel Soltones, the Lady Stags swept the nine-game elims to advance outright in the Finals armed with a thrice-to-beat advantage for the second straight season.
It left the rest of the field scrambling for the last championship berth.
Season 92 defending champion College of St. Benilde, looking for a repeat struggled in its campaign but still managed to advance in the stepladder semifinals. The Lady Blazers eliminated San Beda College in the first knockout match but had their reign ended by Arellano University, the same squad they dethroned a year ago also in the semis.
Facing a great challenge against the well-rested Lady Stags, the Lady Chiefs relied on their veterans Rialen Sante, Jovielyn Prado, Andrea Marzan, May Esguerra and graduating libero Eunice Galang.
Drawing inspiration from the death of head coach Obet Javier’s wife, the Lady Chiefs gave their grieving mentor something to smile about on Valentine’s Day by completing a series sweep of the Lady Stags that left Soltones crownless in her collegiate career.
Meanwhile, national team skipper John Vic De Guzman on his swan song fulfilled his promise to give CSB its first men’s title by booting the Perpetual Help Altas off the throne in a best-of-three sweep.
Soltones will have her redemption at the sands as she and partner Alyssa Eroa completed a four-peat in NCAA women's beach volleyball. The Altas took the men’s division title to end a four-year drought.
The Beach Volleyball Republic continued its advocacy in bringing the sport closer to Filipinos with legs all over the country for another successful year.
In the Philippine Superliga, Kobe Shinwa and Cignal shared the Invitational crown while Chery Rondina and Bernadeth Pons led Petron Sprint 4T in claiming the league’s beach volleyball challenge cup.
Petron dethroned F2 Logistics in the All-Filipino Conference in a best-of-three series sweep. But the Cargo Movers took its sweet revenge in the Grand Prix, coming back from a 0-1 series deficit before taking down Petron in an thrilling battle played at the MOA Arena.
When we talk about rivalries, nothing will equal the fierce battle between the UAAP women’s match between the Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University.
For the sixth straight year, fans were treated to another titanic Ateneo-DLSU collision course.
The Lady Eagles, post-Alyssa Valdez era, proved that they can still pull the trigger in Season 79, winning 12 games in the elimination including two against the reigning champions Lady Spikers. Ateneo’s two losses came at the hands of the Jaja Santiago-led National University.
Led by top hitters Michelle Morente, Bea De Leon, Kat Tolentino and enigmatic setter Jia Morado, the Katipunan-based squad returned in the Finals for the sixth straight year after booting out Far Eastern University.
The Lady Spikers, bannered by graduating playmaker Kim Fajardo and veterans Kim Kianna Dy, eventual Most Valuable Player Majoy Baron, Desiree Cheng and libero Dawn Macandili, unlike Ateneo, had a shaky start.
DLSU suffered an upset against University of the Philippines and were swept by the Lady Eagles in the elims. The Lady Spikers landed at no. 2 spot in the Final Four and eliminated University of Sto. Tomas to advance in their ninth straight championship stint.
The Finals series, as expected, was a blockbuster.
DLSU took Game 1 in four sets with the Lady Spikers dropping the opening set before rallying in the second to turn the tables around.
With their backs against the wall, the Lady Eagles took a 2-1 match lead in Game 2 that drew a 20,860 crowd.
But with the trio of Cheng, Dy and Ernestine Tiamzon heating up, DLSU rallied to claim its 10th title – all under head coach Ramil de Jesus – and give Fajardo a fitting farewell gift.
In the men’s division, the Blue Eagles led by four-time MVP Marck Espejo, Russian-American Tony Koyfmam and graduating players Josh Villanueva and Rex Intal completed a rare 16-game tournament sweep for a three-peat, defeating bitter rival National University in their best-of-three series in a fourth straight Finals head-to-head.
To open Season 80 of the UAAP, the tandem of Rondina and new partner Caitlyn Viray steamrolled over the competition for a repeat in women’s beach volleyball at the expense of FEU’s Pons and Kyla Atienza.
In the men’s division, Bryan Bagunas and James Natividad erased the bitter loss of NU in indoor volleyball by dethroning UST’s KR Guzman and Anthony Arbasto.
The Faith Nisperos-led NU completed a four-peat reign in girls volleyball after sweeping the Eya Laure-bannered UST in their fifth straight Finals showdown while UST bagged its breakthrough boys crown at the expense of FEU-Diliman.
After 13 years of bringing high-level volleyball action outside of collegiate leagues with V-League, Sports Vision partnered with ABS-CBN S+A for the second straight year and introduced the birth of Premier Volleyball League.
Aside from world-class TV coverage, PVL also introduced the use of multi-cam livestreaming to give online fans a new viewing experience.
Composed of a strong field spiced with international flavor, PVL opened its inaugural season with the Reinforced Conference.
Pocari Sweat lived up to its label as the team-to-beat as power-hitter Myla Pablo teamed up with American imports Michelle Strizak and dominating spiker Krystal Rivers, a late replacement for injured Bosnian reinforcement Edina Selimovic, to capture the Reinforced Conference title at in three games against BaliPure.
The Purest Water Defenders will get their revenge a few months after when they swept the Lady Warriors in the Open Conference.
ABS-CBN Sports introduced the country’s first-ever all-volleyball weekly online show ‘Down The Line’, a 20-minute fun and fresh talk show tackling about the latest in the sport and volleyball personalities. Hosted by veteran sportscaster Anton Roxas and a very bubbly former Ateneo libero Denden Lazaro, the show drew a great following from fans wanting to know volleyball on a different angle.
Season 2 is expected to unfurl early 2018.
(To be continued)