LIFE's A BALL: A look back at Philippine volleyball in 2017

A look back at Philippine volleyball in 2017 (last part)
A look back at Philippine volleyball in 2017.

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.

Here's the continuation of ABS-CBN's look back at the year that was in Philippine volleyball. 

 

INTERNATIONAL MARK

The year that’s about to end also saw the Filipino brand of volleyball make its mark internationally.

One of the biggest news that opened 2017 was when Thai League team 3BB Nakornnont tapped former Ateneo de Manila University Queen Eagle Alyssa Valdez as an import.

The Phenom again saw another stint abroad outside of the national team after Attack Line recruited her to play in Chinese-Taipei.

National University’s Jaja Santiago got an offer to play for Bangkok Glass but the 6-foot-5 hitter declined the offer to suit up for the Bulldogs on her last year.

Looking for exposure, Philippine Superliga sent a team composed of its players and members of the national team in the Asian Women’s Club Championship held in Kazakhstan last May. Unfortunately, the all-Filipino squad came home winless.

For the first time in decades, the PHI national men’s and women’s team were given a chance to train abroad through Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. and corporate sponsors.

The Pinay spikers had two training camps in Japan, one in Okayama City and the other at Osaka as part of their preparation for the Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship and the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.

The men’s national team flew to Suwon, South Korea and trained with the Korean U-19, U-23 and a club squad for two weeks as part of their SEA Games build up.

After their 17-day training in Japan, the women’s team participated in the 2017 Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball championship were they faced the toughest and best national teams in the continent. The country hosted the event held at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna.

The Pinay volleybelles opened their campaign on a high note after taking down Hong Kong but lost its next match against Kazakhstan. However, the Filipinas still advanced in the quarterfinals.

The nationals crossed paths with the Kim Yeon Koung-led South Korea in the quarters classification and were defeated in straight sets but not after giving the Asian powerhouse some scary moments in the opening round, earning respect from KYK.

Inspired by their gritty display against the Koreans, the Pinays shocked Southeast Asian giant Vietnam in their next quarters classification match in a preview of their SEA Games duel.

But the win landed the PHI into a collision course with regional volleyball powerhouse Thailand. The Filipinas were swept by the Thais in the semis spot race.

From there the PHI suffered consecutive setbacks against Taiwan and Kazakhstan to finish at eighth. Japan won the title in a come-from-behind fashion against Thailand.

But Pinoy volleyball fans still got something to cheer about as a parting gift when libero Dawn Macandili was named 2nd Best Libero in the tournament.

Vietnam got its revenge against the Filipinas with a win in the SEA Games group stage. The PHI swept Malaysia to open their campaign.

Advancing in the semifinals, PHI suffered another setback as Thailand reasserted its mastery over the Pinays.

Vietnam again broke the hearts of the Filipinas after denying them a podium finish in the battle for bronze.

The men’s team gave a gallant stand against Vietnam and Indonesia but fell short. Their lone win was against East Timor.

      

INJURIES

Whoever said that volleyball is not the physical game probably doesn’t understand the sport.

Volleyball players sacrifice their bodies for the ball. Though they may not come in contact against their opponents for most of the game, volleyball players aren’t really exempted from injuries.

This year saw a number of players sidelined just for the love of the sport.

Already reeling after a hot 4-0 start in UAAP Season 79, the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons absorbed a painful blow in their campaign after veteran libero Pia Gaiser suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear on her knee that abruptly ended the fifth year player’s swan song.

In the Premier Volleyball League, Pocari Sweat’s Bosnian import Edina Selimovic was replaced by American Krystal Rivers after suffering a hamstring injury in the Reinforced Conference.

Myla Pablo also missed a couple of games in the import-laden conference after aggravating a lingering back spasm.

Injury bug also bit Ateneo de Manila University after Kim Gequillana went down with a knee injury during the Collegiate Conference while Jema Galanza of Adamson University dislocated her right ankle also in the same tournament.

University of the Philippines' Justine Dorog aggravated a jumper's knee injury.

The PSL also had their share of injuries.

Dindin Santiago-Manabat sustained a Grade 2 MCL partial tear on her left knee during the Invitational Conference that cut her chances to make the national team short.

In the Grand Prix, Cignal was devastated with injuries after hitter Rachel Anne Daquis went down with a muscle strain then had a bout with dengue.

Jovelyn Gonzaga hurt her right knee while Janine Marciano sustained a left knee injury in the quarterfinals.

The men’s national team lost a member even before the SEA Games, when Greg Dolor fractured his left pinky finger during a blocking drill in their Korea training camp.

A heart-breaking news shocked Philippine volleyball after multi-titled coach Kid Santos, one of the sports' pillars in the country, passed away a month ago due to complications after a long bout with diabetes. He was 67.  

 

CONTROVERSIES, OTHER NEWS

Love it or hate it, controversies made this year even more colorful for volleyball.

Brows were raised when the UAAP named Majoy Baron of De La Salle as Season 79 Most Valuable Player. The league released the formula for computing the statistical points but many were still unconvinced on how Baron, who was according to stats was consistent and efficient the whole season, got the top individual award.

LVPI, which was given a provisional recogniton by the FIVB as the country's governing body, had its hands full of controversies this year.

The sports association drew flak from fans after the delayed international transfer certificate (ITC) prevented Valdez from immediately suiting up for 3BB Nakornnont. LVPI and PSL president Ramon ‘Tats’ Suzara were also blamed for the delayed release of PVL imports' ITCs.

Just like what happened two years ago, the selection of the women’s and men’s national team drew criticisms. LVPI chose Sammy Acaylar as the men’s mentor and Francis Vicente, who was criticized for not having a winning credential in the UAAP as head coach of University of the East, got the position in the women’s squad. 

Inclusion and non-inclusion of some players also drew ire from fans as well as training schedule woes.

The appointment of Mika Reyes as national women’s team skipper received mixed opinions.

Fans were also disappointed with the PHI’s medal-less finish in the SEA Games.

The word war between rival commercial leagues continued after the PSL banned Iriga City’s Grethcel Soltones for a year with a hefty fine for playing in the PVL All-Star Sunday while the Grand Prix was ongoing, an infraction on the PSL’s one-league policy. The PVL in retaliation called the suspension ‘absurd’.

Many were shocked when Ateneo setter Jia Morado decided to forego her last playing year just a few hours after the Lady Eagles bowed down to DLSU in the UAAP Finals.

The Katipunan-based squad also lost hitter Michelle Morente due to academic problems. She eventually transferred to bitter rival Lady Spikers.

The ‘ALE-serye’ continued after team manager Tony Boy Liao revealed the team’s ‘internal problems’ and complaints of some players on their training and playing time.

Morado joined former Ateneo teammate Valdez in the PVL playing for Creamline.        

Roger Gorayeb resigned from his post as NU head coach and was replaced by Babes Castillo.

Far Eastern University named George Pascua as women’s head coach replacing Shaq delos Santos. Pascua transferred to Cignal after getting the boot from Petron, which tapped Delos Santos as replacement. 

College of St. Benilde Lady Blazers head coach Macky Carino jumped ship to Perpetual Help while UP named a new Lady Maroons coach after Jerry Yee resigned.    

Ria Meneses also opted to forego her last playing year for University of Sto. Tomas.

Truly, 2017 is a year to remember for all volleyball fans.

As the calendar changes its number, expect a brighter, more colorful, more controversial and exciting year ahead.

 

 

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles 

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