Philippine volleyball’s most colorful year

Saturday, 31 Dec 2016
Nads Ong - Correspondent - @nadineisreal

The year 2016 has filled Philippine volleyball with new beginnings and histrionic endings.

It was such a dramatic year.

The sport has clearly became more popular when new queens reigned and legends kissed their colorful careers goodbye.

It also made itself known when the country hosted an international tournament that opened the eyes of the world, making them aware of the Filipina players’ power, beauty and love for the sport.

And before we welcome another year of hard-hitting action and world-class competition, let’s take a look at what made this year such a remarkable one.

New queens reign

The country’s collegiate leagues NCAA and UAAP hailed new queens – both came from the busy street of Taft Avenue – College of Saint Benilde and De La Salle University.

Led by Finals Most Valuable Player Jeanette Panaga, the Lady Blazers made history after claiming their first NCAA women’s volleyball title since joining the league in 1998.

On the other hand, the Lady Spikers ended their two-year title drought after defeating their bitter rival Ateneo de Manila in a dramatic best-of-three finals showdown in the UAAP.

The Lady Spikers provided a well-deserved ending to the UAAP journey of their seniors; Ara Galang, Mika Reyes, Cyd Demecillo, Mika Esperanza and Carol Cerveza, finished their collegiate career on a high note.

Meanwhile, semi-professional club leagues Philippine Superliga and Shakey’s V-League (now called Philippine V-League) also rolled out the red carpet for their new champions.

F2 Logistics, a La Salle-core squad spearheaded by Ramil De Jesus, clinched its first-ever title in PSL All-Filipino Conference after knocking down Foton in the finals.

Michele Gumabao, Myla Pablo, Gyzelle Sy, Melissa Gohing and the rest of Pocari Sweat, for their part, announced their arrival in the V-League when they notched the Open and Reinforced conference titles in a span of a year.

Heart-crushing final kisses

But who would forget the last dance of Ateneo de Manila University’s queen Alyssa Valdez in the UAAP Season 78?

It was such a heartbreaking finale for the three-tine MVP, who eked her name in local volleyball landscape through her deadly combination of power, skills, wit, humility and charm.

The Lady Eagles were dethroned by archrival La Salle.

Shortly after Valdez’s UAAP exit came a pair of heart-breakers when she failed to rally BaliPure and Bureau of Customs to V-League titles.

But it was not just Valdez who suffered a bittersweet ending as legendary playmaker Tina Salak of RC Cola-Army also penned the last chapter of her colorful career.

Salak, a proud member of the team that won the silver medal in the 1995 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, formally hung her jersey after more than two decades.

Unfortunately, she failed to leave the game on a high note as her Lady Troopers failed to advance to the finals of the PSL Grand Prix.

She is now ready to kick off her coaching career in a bid to share her winning philosopy to rising stars.

At the same time, another former MVP and national team member in Michelle Carolino also gave up her volleyball career due to recurring back problems.

Conquering the world

Another thing that makes 2016 such a historic year was when the Philippines hosted two prestigious international volleyball tourneys: the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship and the FIVB Women’s World Club Championships.

Foton, last year’s PSL Grand Prix champion, represented the country in the AVC which was held last September in Biñan, Laguna.

The Tornadoes landed in the seventh place among 12 competing countries.

A month later, seven magnificent Filipina players in Rachel Anne Daquis, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Jaja Santiago, Kim Fajardo, Mika Reyes, Ces Molina, Jen Reyes were reinforced by seven foreign imports to compete in an Olympic-like tournament, FIVB Women’s Club World Championships held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The PSL-F2 Logistics Manila might have failed in its first mission to conquer the world. It, however, could be the start of a bright future for Filipino talents.

It seemed to be a roller-coaster ride for the players, coaches, fans, and the sport itself.

But it will all start from here.

True enough, from any heartbreak comes a new beginning.

And new beginning awaits brighter future.