Philippine collegiate volleyball just gets better and better every year.
With the emergence of TV broadcast of games, the once unpopular sport now gets a large following.
Even before the rise in popularity of college volleyball, there were already athletes who made a name for themselves in the sport.
The UAAP, for one, has been a league where future national team players are first seen. Players come and go in the UAAP but the legacy left by these players are etched in its rich history.
Now that volleyball already created a euphoria for itself, FOX Sports Philippines took a trip down memory lane and made a profile of possible current and former UAAP best players that can form the nucleus of the league’s dream team.
Alyssa Valdez (ADMU)
When we speak of the open spiker position, one mainstay comes to mind always: Alyssa Valdez.
Valdez is the best open spiker in the country today, no doubt about that. As proof to her brilliance in the post, two club teams abroad invited her where she was able to show the Filipino kind of volleyball.
Valdez is a complete player — she can spike, block, receive, and dig. In fact, she has already won almost all individual awards in the UAAP and was named a three-time season MVP of the league.
During her stint with the Ateneo, Valdez carried the team in two UAAP crowns including a historic first-ever title in Season 76, ending her school’s UAAP volleyball championship drought.
Valdez is currently a member of the national team and is playing in different leagues here and abroad.
Venus Bernal (UST)
Even before the emergence of a pool of talented open spikers in the UAAP, Venus Bernal has already carved a name for herself.
Known as the “butterfly” for her patented butterfly-like approach, Bernal is a solid attacker who can score from all corners of the court.
Her kills are lethal that even great floor defenders during her time could not defend well.
Bernal won the most valuable player and best scorer plums in the 69th season of the UAAP where her team also took home the championship.
After her college stint, Bernal has not been seen in action in the professional league for six years until the staging of the Philippine Superliga where she bagged the first ever MVP plum of the league.
She eventually retired, saying it is time for young gunners to experience the volleyball limelight. Bernal now works as a full-time corporate employee at a water company.
Runners-up: Manila Santos, Myla Pablo
Mary Jean Balse (UST)
Mary Jean Balse is the other half of UST’s “double B” tandem; one being Venus Bernal.
She is part of the UST team that won the championship in Season 69. She is also part of the national team that won the Bronze medal in the 23rd Southeast Asian game, the last volleyball medal the country has produced to date.
When Balse’s name is mentioned, one thing that fans would remember about her is how she effectively carries her team apart from her scoring prowess. She has that swag that is not irritating and her cheerfulness inside the court is contagious.
Balse is a mainstay in the national team and has already played in several leagues inside and outside the country.
She now juggles her time in playing the sport she loves since she is already a family woman and a full-time Philippine Army cadet.
Jaja Santiago (NU)
When you are tall and at the same time you have an impressive skills set, volleyball will just be a breeze for you.
That is what Jaja brings to the table: her towering height and world-class skills.
The three-time UAAP best attacker undeniably is one of the best players the Philippines has. In fact, she has been invited to play for a club team in Thailand but she declined in the meantime to finish her prior commitments to the National University volleyball squad.
Jaja is the younger sister of Dindin Santiago, who like her is also tall and talented. Through the years, Jaja has vastly improved her skill set even making her a deadlier athlete in the middle blocker post as she age. She has represented the country in international volleyball tilts and has played in various leagues in the local scene.
Runners-up: Jacq Alarca (DLSU), Dindin Santiago (NU)
Kim Fajardo (DLSU)
Kim Fajardo is the play-maker all spikers want to be teammates with.
A three-time best UAAP setter, Fajardo is an excellent setter who can confuse and toy on her opponent’s defense with her fast sets and exceptional play-making.
Fajardo’s volleyball IQ is spectacular as she can adjust to whatever kind of sets her spikers want. Aside from her setting prowess, Fajardo also has a deadly serve, which can send receivers guessing where the ball will land.
Her one-two plays are also a force to be reckoned with and gave her that attacking-setter label.
Runner-up: Janet Serafica
Aiza Maizo (UST)
If there is one word to describe Aiza Maizo’s collegiate career, it would be amazing.
Originally recruited to fill the setter post for UST, Maizo has embarked a name for herself in the opposite position.
She was, in fact, dubbed as the closer since when she goes for an attack, it is almost a sure point for the team and she has that legacy to close out games for her team.
Maizo is also no stranger to winning individual awards. During her college stint with the Tigresses, Maizo has won several awards including two-time best scorer.
Her individual brilliance did not stop there as she also excelled in local leagues earning her several MVP plums in both V-league and the Philippine Superliga.
Now a family woman, Maizo is still on top of her game, owing it to her five-year-old son as inspiration.
Runner-up: Michelle Gumabao (DLSU)
Dawn Macandili (DLSU)
Dawn Macandili is nothing but spectacular in the libero post.
She will run, dive, and sacrifice her body just to save any ball and not let it hit the floor.
Her daredevil saves has won her second best libero in the Asian Seniors tilt last year and earned the nods of many international coaches.
Macandili is the reigning UAAP best receiver and is currently playing steadily in the season 80 of the UAAP.
She sends chills and applauses to the spectators whenever she chases and saves an almost impossible to save the ball and even convert it to a point for her team. Her excellent libero skills will surely open many opportunities in the future.
Who knows she might be the next athlete to play in a club team abroad?
Runner-up: Lizlee Ann Gata (Adamson)