As an era comes to a close, a new batch of stars rises on the horizon
The curtains are slowly falling on the UAAP careers of the stars that helped women’s volleyball shoot to newfound heights of fame.
Marquee players led by Alyssa Valdez, Ara Galang, Mika Reyes and Myla Pablo will be playing out their final season, and an era that left volleyball fans spoiled in the varsity level need to search for new heroines to adore.
They need not look far. Season 78 is brimming with promise.
Led by an intrepid cast of young guns from University of the Philippines, a batch of rookies could end up creating the same impact Valdez and Co. jack-hammered on UAAP volleyball.
Soft-spoken Isa Molde leads the young stars ready to burst into the UAAP limelight.
“Exposure po ang madadala ko kasi high school pa lang pinalaro na kami sa international league (I can bring in my exposure to international leagues because I’ve been playing there since high school),” said Molde.
“Sanay na sa crowd at sa malalakas na kalaban (I’m already used to playing in front of big crowds and against tough opponents),” shared the 5-foot-6 outside hitter.
Her teammate at Hope Christian High School, Justine Dorog, will join her in UP. The 5-foot-4 Dorog impressed scouts and fans with her patented running hit which is a staple attack mostly done by taller middle blockers.
“Why not try? Nakakatuwa kasi nakikita ng mga tao na sa liit kong ito, kaya ko pala gawin ‘yun (I feel good when I show people that even if I’m small, I can pull it off),” said the Cebuana Dorog.
Completing UP’s powerful rookie quartet are Palarong Pambansa standouts Maris Layug and Diana Carlos, who both chose to play for the State University due to their desire to be under the wings of coach Jerry Yee, a man who has produced the likes of UAAP greats Jem Ferrer, Manilla Santos and Melissa Gohing.
Carlos, from Pampanga, hopes her energy can power the Diliman squad into a Final Four finish which it has failed to do in the last 12 years.
“Sobrang talkative ko and mahilig ako mag cheer sa team (I’m very talkative and I love cheering for my team),” she said.
The 5-foot-11 Layug is aiming to take UP a little farther.
“Gusto ko pong mag champion. ‘Yun naman po kasi ang first goal ko pagkapasok ko sa UP. I don’t care na sa best blocker or Rookie of the Year. Basta gusto ko ‘yung team namin mag champion, (I want to win the championship. That’s the goal when I joined UP. I don’t care for the best blocker or Rookie of the Year awards. I just want to win the championship).” said Layug.
UST is also making major changes in its lineup starting with its new head coach, Emilio Reyes.
Famous for owning one of the most solid girls’ program that launched the careers of Valdez, sisters Dindin and Jaja Santiago and La Salle’s Kim Fajardo, UST hopes to shape a new set of stars.
UST’s old glory was what attracted Mia Dizon to the España campus despite being heavily recruited by other schools.
“Ever since kasi hindi pa ako naglalaro nun, nanonood na kami nila mommy. UST talaga ‘yung umaangat nun, (Even when I wasn’t playing, my mom and I would watch UST games because the school kept winning),” Dizon said.
Carla Sandoval made a successful debut for UST in the V-League where her instinct for chasing for well-placed drop balls did not go unnoticed.
With UST missing the Final Four bus in recent years, Sandoval, an Angelicum product, hopes to fulfill her volleyball dreams with UST—which means finishing on top.
“Siyempre lahat naman po ng tao dream nila nasa top. Wala naman pong nangarap na nasa baba at naaapakan (Everyone dreams of being on top. No one ever wants to be trampled on).”
Setter-spiker Alyssa Teope, a product of the UST girls’ program knows that a lot of eyes are on her and admitted to feeling the pressure while playing for the Golden Tigresses in the Shakey’s V-League.
“Ang UST high school sabi nila de-kalibre so dapat ipakita mo kung ano ‘yung de-kalibre na sinasabi nila (UST High School has been known as a high-caliber program and you really need to prove what high-caliber means),” she said.
In Season 77, UE finished at the bottom of the rankings making the Lady Warriors the league’s cellar-dwellers for three consecutive years.
The campaign was not without a triumph, however, as UE’s Kath Arado bagged the Rookie of the Year plum which she shared with UST’s EJ Laure.
Looking to duplicate the feat, UE coach Francis Vicente will be fielding in more than five towering newbies led by head-turner 5-foot-10 Caviteña Seth Rodriguez.
Rodriguez wants to make an immediate impact for UE and she knows exactly where to start.
“Alisin ko daw ‘yung naco-conscious ako every time na nasa loob ako ng court kasi takot daw po ako sa tao (Coach told me to stop being conscious because he noticed I’m scared of people),” she said.
La Salle, meanwhile, will parade one of the most hotly-recruited volleybelles from the high school ranks in May Luna, who is a star in her hometown in Davao.
After towing her squad to the finals of the 2015 Palarong Pambansa, Luna flew to Manila and started training with the Taft squad, hoping to earn a spot in the star-studded roster of Ramil de Jesus.
These are the rookies who promise to bring women’s volleyball to newer heights when Season 78 open’s its women’s tournament in February.
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