We are already looking at our crystal ball even if the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament is not yet over. Here’s how we see Season 82 unfolding. This is nowhere close to a guarantee by any means. But we are basing these rankings on who will be left behind and who will be coming in.
8. UE Lady Warriors
Kath Arado’s departure alone is a huge void to fill for Jasckin Babol. Having the UAAP Season 80 Best Receiver and Digger gave UE the chance to win every rally. Remember how Arado willed the Lady Warriors to five sets against UP in the Season 81 opener? That’s how big of a boost she is.
But she’s not the only one leaving Recto. The graduation of Judith Abil, Jasmine Alcayde, and Roselle Baliton signifies a rebuilding phase for Coach Karl Dimaculangan’s team. Playmaking will be handed to Lhara Clavano as Laizah Bendong exhausted her eligibility as well.
The cupboard is a bit bare for the Lady Warriors. Mary Anne Mendrez, Zilfa Olarve, and Seth Rodriguez will need all the help they can get. The Lady Warriors think tank should ramp up their recruitment.
7. Adamson Lady Falcons
Bad news: Eli Soyud and Joy Dacoron are gone. Better news: Adamson’s young core has a year of experience under their sleeve. We can only hope that setter MJ Igao and Nikka Yandoc will improve from their maiden UAAP season. The San Marcelino unit is also developing Krich Macaslang into Dacoron’s heir apparent.
However, Adamson’s ranking will heavily depend on Bernadette Flora and Chiara Permentilla’s performances. Limiting their errors is a good start but confidence with their attacks might do wonders for the Lady Falcons. Floor defense rests mainly upon Thang Ponce’s shoulders as she becomes the leading candidate for Best Libero.
But unlike UE, a talented group of young talent will be landing on their nest. Familiarity will be Coach Rogelio Getigan’s advantage as he mentors her former Kings Montessori School players.
Louie Romero can give Yandoc and Igao a stern challenge for the setter spot. Lucille Mae Almonte, Antonette Adolfo, and Rizza Andrea Cruz can add firepower to their attack. Cae Lazo will be ready once her time comes as she learns from Ponce.
Still, there would be growing pains once they set foot in UAAP womens volleyball. The brighter lights and the bigger crowds might cause them to implode, leaving them out of the Final Four again.
6. UP Lady Maroons
This ranking heavily banks on the possibility that Tots Carlos, Justine Dorog, and Isa Molde might not return for their final season. Those three not using their final year will be devastating for UP’s wing attack. That will leave them with close to nothing because Marian Buitre won’t be coming back for good.
Ayel Estranero’s exit is a huge blow as well but Marianne Sotomil will grow into that starting setter role. But how will she create plays if she doesn’t have options?
Their middle game with Marist Layug and Aie Gannaban is respectable but they have to be involved more. Hopefully, Rem Altomea and Mirgie Bautista will make the jump in year two.
5. NU Lady Bulldogs
If they were able to give teams a hard time with this roster, what more in Season 82? Joyme Cagande will be back at the playmaking helm and she will have viable targets in Princess Robles and Ivy Lacsina. Jennifer Nierva will remain the starting libero while Risa Sato will fill the spot left by Roselyn Doria.
It would be a stretch to say that Jasmine Nabor and Jorelle Singh will return. But what if they did? Could it be that Nabor will return to being a spiker? Then there’s an intriguing prospect in Margot Mutshima too.
This team will improve leaps and bounds next season given that they will have a better roster. However, it feels like they will narrowly miss the Final Four unless they can reduce their errors and tinker their two-receiver formation.
4. FEU Lady Tamaraws
NU and FEU will battle for the last Final Four spot. Yet gut feel tells me that Coach George Pascua and the Lady Tamaraws will have the edge. They may be losing Heather Guino-o and Jerrili Malabanan after Season 81. But with the likes of Lycha Ebon and France Ronquillo, they find players who deliver.
The roster of returning players are no push-over either. Celine Domingo will be one of the better middle blockers while Czarina Carandang will bring the hurt with her quick hits. Angel Cayuna slides seamlessly into the starting setter position while Buding Duremdes will give Ponce a challenge for the Best Libero trophy.
That open spiker position and their service reception would be their greatest concerns. However, they will be able to address this one way or another. How? Only they will know.
3. Ateneo Lady Eagles
I’d place them here if Kat Tolentino uses her final playing year. If she doesn’t, they might even finish outside the Final Four. Losing middle blockers of Maddie Madayag and Bea De Leon’s caliber might sting Coach Oliver Almadro’s crew for a while. Their woes would continue if the inconsistencies of Jules Samonte, Vanessa Gandler, and Ponggay Gaston prevail.
But that one big fight for Ateneo can be sustained by incoming talent. Faith Nisperos would be a nice complement to Tolentino at the open while Samantha Fanger, Millicent Salvino, and Sofia Navarro will fight for court time. Micaella Go is an intriguing talent at middle blocker and Bela Peralta or Jamaica Sanchez could be the answer at libero.
They will have enough ammunition to aim at a Final Four spot. But their first ball reception must be improved since their blocking might not be as good as this season.
2. UST Golden Tigresses
This year’s finalists will miss the services of Cherry Anne Rondina next season. But look at who they will get in return. Milena Alessandrini and Tin Francisco will see action after respective injuries while EJ Laure could make her way back in the roster. Just imagine how dominant UST will be if the older Laure will regain her form while playing with Eya.
Everyone stays aside from their captain. Kecelyn Galdones and Ysa Jimenez will mature to their roles while Alina Bicar has the starting setter position on lock. Imee Hernandez can fortify their middle position and Caitlyn Viray can even be used as a second “opposite hitter”. Janel Delerio takes on Rica Rivera’s spot.
Rondina’s offensive production will be hard to come by. However, the Golden Tigresses will have the pieces to compensate for that loss and even return to the Finals for a second straight season.
1. De La Salle Lady Spikers
Even the best one have their down years. But a glance at their roster shows that they will be on the hunt for their 12th title come UAAP Season 82. Everyone except Des Cheng and Lourdes Clemente will return. May Luna slides into the spot that the captain will vacate while Norielle Ipac must be inserted as a starting middle hitter.
De La Salle’s young talent will separate them from the rest of the teams. Jolina Dela Cruz is already the primary offensive option in her second year. Leila Cruz and Yophe Sharma are interesting prospects should they crack the rotation. Thea Gagate can develop into a menacing middle blocker in the mold of Majoy Baron. Justine Jazareno might even be converted to a libero to compete with CJ Saga and Ferlyn Nomil.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg for De La Salle’s recruitment haul. If that’s the case, the Lady Spikers missing the Finals for the first time after 11 seasons will be more of an aberration than a norm.