Why each player deserves their spot

Tuesday, 07 Aug 2018
Lawrence Fernandez - Editor - @lancefernandez

It’s impossible to please everyone. That’s why even the roster of the Philippine women’s volleyball team for the 2018 Asian Games is still subject to debate among fans. There’s nothing wrong about it especially because everyone is entitled to their opinion.

But with the competition just weeks away and majority of the players are now training in Japan, it’s best to rally our support for these exceptional talents who will carry our flag. While you may think that someone is more deserving of their spot, here’s why each of coach Cesael Delos Santos’ wards is worthy of being included.

Have no reservations for the reserves

Maika Ortiz – The replacement for Rhea Dimaculangan is a steady force as middle blocker for the Foton Tornadoes. She has helped stabilized the front row for coach Edjet Mabbayad. The 2016 Philippine Superliga Grand Prix Second Best Middle Blocker also has a devastating running spike that can catch the opposing teams by surprise.

Denden Lazaro – Though her medical school has been sidelined, the Iron Eagle can still put on a defensive clinic for Team Philippines. Aside from winning multiple UAAP titles, she has been hailed as either Best Digger or Best Receiver multiple times during her collegiate and Shakey’s V-League stints.

The libero has you covered

Dawn Macandili – The diminutive defensive ace from Batangas must have a magnet for the ball due to her eye-popping saves. As long as the ball has not touched the ground, Ms. Everywhere has a chance to keep the rally alive thanks to her pancake dives and mid-air flips. She might not be joining the training in Japan but you know she will be ready come game time. If you’re not buying that, just look again at her exemplary performance during the UAAP Season 80 Finals against FEU.

All set at the setter spot

Jia Morado – She might have left the Ateneo volleyball program a year too early. But it’s evident that her talent continues to flourish. Whether in the Milo BEST Center, the NCR Palarong Panrelihiyon, Palarong Pambansa, UAAP, or PVL, she never failed to prove her worth as Best Setter. After serving as playmaker during the Lady Eagles’ back-to-back championship run in seasons 76 and 77, her winning ways continued in the pros by getting the 2018 PVL Reinforced Conference title and receiving Finals MVP honors as well.

Kim Fajardo – Opponents would just have to pick their poison between two proven setters. If it’s not Morado running the show, then teams on the other side of the net would be witnesses to Fajardo’s fluid execution. As only the second UAAP player to be named Best Setter three times, the pride of Batangas is capable of calming nerves by tossing the ball to the right spiker. While she has amassed Best Setter distinctions in every level of competition, her championship poise and leadership over a young DLSU Lady Spikers squad enabled them to win a second straight title.

The forces to reckon with at middle blocker

Mika Reyes – Say whatever you want about her swagger on the court. But the squad will need her emotional charge to keep their heads up regardless of score. She may taunt, stare, or talk excessively but Reyes has the silverware to back it up. The three-time UAAP champion has won First Best Middle Blocker in the 2017 PSL Grand Prix and the 2018 PSL Invitational Cup. Beyond the individual achievements, she is one of the main fixtures in the exciting Petron-F2 Logistics rivalry that is lording over the PSL.

Majoy Baron – Silent waters run deep. Her calm demeanor on court is in contrast to the ferocity of her blocks and spikes. Consider it a score for her team when the opposing team over-receives and she’s in her comfort zone as middle blocker. The pride of Tarlac is a three-time UAAP champion with De La Salle and also a three-time champion with F2 Logistics in the PSL. Baron was also hailed First Best Middle Blocker in the 2017 PSL All-Filipino Cup and Second Best Middle Blocker in both the 2017 PSL Grand Prix and the 2018 PSL Invitationals.

A quick peek at our opposite hitters

Mylene Paat – She maybe an under-the-radar replacement for the injured Ces Molina. But her performance under Coach Air Padda triggered the resurgence of Adamson volleyball. Paat had a chance to represent the country in the 2015 Asian Women’s U23 Volleyball Championship but was barred by the university to avoid the risk of injury. Her contributions also helped the Cignal HD Spikers win the 2017 PSL Invitational Conference.

Kim Kianna Dy – Before she became known as a potent opposite spiker, Kim Kianna Dy was the UAAP Juniors Best Blocker in seasons 74 and 75. She has also shown nerves of steel in the biggest of stages by bagging Finals MVP in UAAP Season 78. Her winning ways with the Lady Spikers rolled over to the Cargo Movers and she added the 2017 PSL Grand Prix Second Best Opposite Spiker award to her trophy case. Watch out for her booming kills once she is cleared for liftoff behind the attack line.

Jaja Santiago – She will become the first Filipina to play in Division 1 of the Japanese V Premier League come October. This gem of a hitter will be an asset for the Ageo Medics for she can help stabilize their net defense. But when they have the ball, her toasty spikes will be a tasty treat. The tallest among the national team players is the reigning UAAP Season MVP and Best Attacker. Though she did not win a championship in college, she tasted victory in the 2015 and 2016 PSL Grand Prix with the Foton Tornadoes. Santiago also won the 2017 PVL Collegiate Conference with the Lady Bulldogs.

An inside look at the outside hitters

Dindin Santiago-Manabat – Her length will be an asset in the net for the national squad. Likewise, her quick kills can rattle the opponent’s back line. Santiago-Manabat was hailed as Best Attacker in UAAP Season 76 and was named Most Valuable Player during the first conference of the 10th and 11th Shakey’s V-League seasons. Her excellence parlayed during her PSL stint as proven by her Second-Best Middle Blocker award in the 2014 PSL Grand Prix and First Best Middle Blocker in the 2015 PSL All-Filipino Conference.

Cha Cruz-Behag – Though she is the oldest among the national team players, Cruz-Behag serves will act as a plumber who can plug any holes that might be revealed in-game. After all, Ms. Everything has proven that she can fill almost any position on the volleyball floor. She plays her best at the biggest of stage as shown by her Finals MVPs during UAAP Seasons 73 and 74. Aside from winning multiple titles with F2 Logistics in the PSL, she was also named First Best Outside Spiker in the 2015 PSL All-Filipino Conference.

Alyssa Valdez – What else do we need to say about her? Arguably the best volleyball player in the country today, Valdez has also brought her talents to 3BB Nakornnont in Thailand and Attack Line in Taiwan. The resurgence of the sport in the Philippines can be largely credited to her exploits especially when she led the Ateneo De Manila Lady Eagles in toppling down the DLSU Lady Spikers dynasty. A long list of individual and team achievements in the college and professional ranks makes her a shoo-in for the national team.

Make way for the captain

Aby Maraño – This volleyball luminary is a great choice for captain. Off the court, she can relieve tension with her funny antics. On it, she is a model of focus and consistency with her no-nonsense, beast mode approach. Her fiery outbursts after a successful block or kill can recharge the energy of the entire squad. Meanwhile, the respect she commands will keep everyone on the same page. The three-time UAAP champion, two-time UAAP season MVP, and four-time PSL champion will keep opponents on their toes with her running spike and well-timed blocks.