Villareal joins BanKo’s hunt for first PVL title

Another Far Eastern University (FEU) talent will be flexing her muscle in the Premiere Volleyball League (PVL) as middle blocker Jeanette Villareal joined BanKo Perlas Spikers.

In a Twitter post, the Perlas Spikers officially introduced Villareal as one of their assets for the upcoming PVL Reinforced Conference, which opens this Sunday.

This made Villareal the fourth player from FEU’s starting unit who are confirmed to be suiting up in the import-flavored conference following the move of Celine Domingo, Heather Guino-o and Kyle Negrito to Creamline.

Villareal is expected to boost BanKo’s bid for its first ever PVL title.

A veteran net defender from Morayta, she was part of green-and-gold squad who reached the Finals of Season 80 – the team’s return to the finals after nine years.

On her fourth year, the one-time UAAP silver medallist helped the Lady Tamaraws clinched their fifth straight semifinals appearance in the recently-concluded Season 81.

She finished the tournament’s elimination round with 59 markers built on 34 kills, 23 blocks, and two aces.

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Jules Samonte is most talked about player during Season 81 Finals

After scoring the championship point in favor of her team to win back the crown, Ateneo’s Jules Samonte became the most talked about player at the tail-end of the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament.

In a report by Rappler, Samonte appeared to be the most talked about player on the platform during the season-ending battle last Saturday, according to TheNerve data.

The third-year outside hitter, who scored the title-clinching hit for the Lady Eagles, gathered 17.55 percent of the 32,400 tweets geo-tagged to the country during the week-long series.

Tweets about Samonte peaked when she went off for the championship point, handing Katipunan its third UAAP title.

Samonte amassed a total of 19 points during the best-of-three Finals.

Next to her were fellow blue-and-white spikers and graduating trio of Kat Tolentino (17.43 percent), Bea de Leon (13.18 percent) and Maddie Madayag (11.74 percent).

Season’s most valuable player (MVP) Sisi Rondina, meanwhile, was at no. 5 with 8.73 percent of the tweets that mentioned specific players.

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All eyes on Madayag, Tolentino as they have yet to decide where to play next

Every time collegiate superstars graduate from the UAAP, it is always interesting to know where they are heading for the next chapter of their volleyball careers.

And with the collegiate season officially ending last weekend, the “sweepstakes” for these young guns is now in full swing.

Arguably, UST’s Sisi Rondina, UE’s Kat Arado, Des Cheng of La Salle and Ateneo’s Bea de Leon, Maddie Madayag and Kat Tolentino are the hottest players in the recruitment field.

But while Rondina, Arado and Cheng are already expected to reunite with Petron, Generika and F2 Logistics, respectively, Madayag and Tolentino – it seemed – are still undecided to where to take their talents to.

Madayag and Tolentino have so much to offer in the table.

For one, they are coming off a victorious collegiate stint after leading the Lady Eagles to their third UAAP championship. For sure, these ladies want a follow-up to their collegiate success, hoping to clinch another title with their new teams.

Both in tiptop shapes, Madayag (second Best Middle Blocker) is an impeccable net defender whilst Tolentino (Best Opposite) is someone who can light up the scoreboards at any given time.

On their final year, the middle blocker had a tournament-best 0.86 block average by set including the historic 11-block performance in a single match. Tolentino, meanwhile, was ranked third in spiking (30.23 percent success rate), third in blocking (0.63 blocks per set) and fourth in scoring (200 points total).

Character-wise, these talents out of Katipunan are resilient after having suffered from knee injuries and still emerging as two of the best in the business.

Halting her season short, Madayag acquired an ACL injury during the early goings of Season 78. She then returned the next season, but it wasn’t until Season 81 that she reached her most lethal form. Likewise, Tolentino has suffered ACL injury thrice, but it didn’t dampen her drive to bounce back.

These are why all eyes are on them. Madayag and Tolentino are not only champions, they are also fighters.

Reportedly, three PSL teams are interested with the two champion spikers.

Though already jampacked with ace players, the Blaze Spikers are apparently still eyeing Tolentino to further boost their title defense bid. The Lady Realtors want Madayag in their fold as they look to make the upcoming tournament their breakout stint.

Meanwhile, UVC wants both. After failing to acquire Myla Pablo, UVC is reportedly doing everything it can secure to Madayag and Toletino to play alongside Kalei Mau, Alohi Robins-Hardy and fellow Ateneo standout Amy Ahomiro.

All eyes will remain on them as they have yet to make final decisions.

For now, aspiring teams could only hope that Madayag’ and Tolentino’s decision will lead them right to their doors.

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Great Wall of Katipunan: Lady Eagles’ 14 blocks key to reclaim the throne

The great wall of Katipunan.

Ateneo de Manila University’s net defense was at full strength when they frustrated the upstart University of Sto. Tomas during the gold medal match of the UAAP Season 81 earlier.

The best blocking team of the season, the Lady Eagles leaned on their formidable blockings to thwart the Golden Tigresses championship dreams and took tome their third UAAP title.

Led by league-leading blockers Bea de Leon, Kat Toletino and Maddie Madayag, the ladies in blue and white amassed 14 huge blocks, eclipsing their opponents’ meager 3-block output.

Four of those came from Madayag, season’s second best middle blocker, and Jules Samonte, who was a middle blocker during high school.

Their timely blocks on UST’s veteran-rookie Sisi Rondina and Eya Laure came in during the most important ticks of the clash, especially during the latter part of the third frame.

In fact, the young Laure, season’s best spiker, has had a hard time penetrating the strong arms of Ateneo, only managing nine kills off 37 tries as her success rate in spikes dipped to 24.32 percent.

Rondina was a marked woman, too, as her 17 attacks were from 50 attempts for a 34 percent success rate in spikes.

Despite this, the Tigresses had the edge in attacks, registering 37 kills compared to the Lady Eagles’ 27.

But while this was the case, defense proved to be more powerful than offense as Ateneo managed to reclaim the throne.

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#KamiUlit: Lady Eagles soars over Tigresses, bags third UAAP title

Hail to the new Queens!

Ateneo de Manila University capped its campaign in style as it copped the highly-coveted UAAP Season 81 championship after a straight-set win against the University of Sto. Tomas.

Forging a rubber match for the crown last Wednesday, the Lady Eagles banked on their formidable net defense and soared over the Golden Tigresses in three sets, 25-17, 25-22, 25-22, to bag their third UAAP title in the last six years, Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

This marked the team’s first title under the tutelage of coach Oliver Almadro.

Ateneo capped the season with 15 wins and four losses while UST went home with a win-loss 13-6 tally.

Graduating middle blockers Maddie Madayag and Be de Leon closed their collegiate career with a smash as they led the stellar net defense of the Katipunan-based squad.

Ateneo’s blocking was on point right from the get-go, putting pressure on UST’s wing hitters to take the opener in dominant fashion.

The girls in yellow-and-white seemed to have regrouped in the second as they were in lead before the blue-and-white spikers made a late set surge to go 2-0 in sets.

With their backs against the wall, Sisi Rondina tried to keep the Tigresses afloat, knotting the game at 22 before Madayag came through followed by a title-clinching hit from Jules Samonte.

(To be updated)

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Foton taps Lai Bendong as EJ Laure returns

Looking to end a two-year championship drought, Foton will be parading young talents when it competes for the upcoming Philippine Superliga (PSL) All Filipino Conference 2019.

The Tornadoes will be getting a much-needed boost from the returning outside hitter EJ Laure and UAAP standouts Justin Dorog, Marianne Buitre, and Lai Bendong.

With their arrival, Foton hopes to reclaim its glory days after its 7-conference long title dry spell.

After more than a year of layoff due to shoulder injury, Laure is billed to make a comeback for Foton following her last stint with the team in 2017.

In 2016, she helped the squad win silver in All Filipino and a 2-peat Grand Prix gold – their last title as of date.

UP’s Dorog and Buitre and UE’s Bendong will have vital roles as well.

Versatile players, Dorog can easily switch between open spiker and libero while Buitre can play opposite and middle, giving head coach Aaron Velez a lot of options.

Dorog finished UAAP Season 81 with 101 markers under her name while Buitre had 74 points on her swan song.

Bendong, meanwhile, capped her collegiate career as the Best Setter of the league, averaging 6.81 excellent sets per frame.

Laure and the three recruits will play alongside Jaja and Dindin Santiago, Maika Ortiz, Jen Reyes, Mina Aganon, Gyselle Sy and CJ Rosario.

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Valdez wishes UST’s injured Laure speedy recovery

Former Ateneo superstar Alyssa Valdez expects and wishes a strong return for UST’s Eya Laure after the rookie hurt her ankle during the Game 2 of the best-of-three Finals of the UAAP Season 81 earlier.

In a Twitter post, Valdez said Laure will not go down without a fight, wishing the injured spiker a speedy recovery in time for the final clash of the season between the Lady Eagles and the Golden Tigresses.

Valdez wrote: “Hindi susuko. Lalaban ang puso. @eyalaureee get well soon.”

Laure, who won the Rookie of the Year and 1st Best Outside Spiker citations, has had a tough night.

The rookie first sustained a mild left ankle sprain in the opening set before she twisted it anew after a bad landing at the start of the third, where she was carried out of the court and back to their dugout.

Laure was able to return on court, but obviously in pain, she was subbed out during the 23-13 mark in the fourth as Ateneo took advantage of UST’s woes.

She was emotional as coach Kung Fu Reyes escorted her back to the bench as the Lady Eagles forged a winner-takes-all.

Laure managed seven spikes, a couple of aces and a block for 10 points.

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Ateneo’s key to win Game 2: Steadier reception

With their backs against the walls, Ateneo de Manila University will swing for the fences when they meet the University of Sto. Tomas tomorrow for the Game 2 of the best-of-three Finals of the highly-vaunted UAAP Season 81.

The Lady Eagles are at a disadvantage heading into the 4 p.m. clash at the Mall of Asia Arena as the Golden Tigresses dominated them in three quick sets the last timeout en route to taking the Finals lead.

Led by the MVP-ROY tandem of Sisi Rondina and Eya Laure, the Espana-based squad is now at the brink of ending an 8-year title drought. This after the blue side completed a head-to-head eliminations round mastery over them.

It is a win-or-go-home situation for Katipunan.

So how can they force a deciding Game 3 on Saturday?

STEADIER RECEPTION

At this point, whenever Ateneo drops a match, it is almost always due to their wobbly first balls.

In their latest loss, the Golden Tigresses preyed them from the service line, dominating the ace department with 10 aces compared to the latter’s one. The Lady Eagles’ problematic reception was only at a 16.67 percent team efficiency.

Ponggay Gaston delivered seven excellent receive on a 27.27 percent efficiency. Libero Kim Gequillana only had five, while Jules Samonte and Dani Ravena had four and three, respectively.

This led to fewer options in running their middle hitters, which proved to be the best in the tourney. Middle blockers Maddie Madayag and Bea De Leon only connected combined six-out-of-18 attacks.

Steadier passing will allow Deanna Wong to generate more middle offense, letting off some scoring burden from Kat Tolentino and their wingers.

CONTROL THE MIDDLE

During their second-round tussle, this season’s second-best middle blocker Madayag made UAAP history by tallying 11 huge blocks in a single game. She clearly had a hand in that come-from-behind win.

Last game, though, Madayag only had one. De Leon and Tolentino, two of the most notorious blockers this year, had two blocks apiece for a total of five blocks for Ateneo.

If ever they won’t be able to solve their reception woes, the Lady Eagles must then make sure to put on a wall at the net to soften the blows coming from Rondina and Laure, the league’s top two spikers.

MORE NUMBERS FROM THE OPEN

Rondina and Laure, no argument, are this season’s best open hitter duo. Their prowess was in full display as they dominated the left wings with combined 29 spikes, which is five more compared to Ateneo’s team total of 24.

Meanwhile, Ateneo’s outside hitters Samonte and Gaston played subpar, only managing six and one point, respectively. Clearly, their numbers were not enough.

Samonte and Gaston do not need to produce a lot, but they have to be as stable as they can be both in punching in numbers and providing good first balls.

CHAMPIONSHIP SAVVY IS KEY

Ateneo must dig deep in their championship experience, something that they do not lack.

Madayag, de Leon, and Gequillana were all part of the historic two-peat championship roster of the Lady Eagles in Season 77 – their last title to date.

Meanwhile, calling the shots for them is coach Oliver Almadro, the architect of the three-peat feat of the men’s team of Ateneo.

This should play as their advantage against UST, who has just returned to the Finals since its last participation in Season 73.

But while this factor may not be seen on the stats, championship experience may prove vital for Ateneo in cutting down deficits and keeping the momentum at their side.

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Malabanan proud to prove FEU’s doubter wrong in her swan song

Arriving at the inevitable end of a wonderful journey, Far Eastern University’s veteran hitter Jerrili Malabanan wrote a farewell message as she maxed out her playing years in the UAAP.

In a Twitter post, Malabanan expressed her joy for what she and the Lady Tamaraws have achieved this UAAP Season 81 amid all the doubts for the team.

Though saddened by the fact that she will be leaving Morayta, the FEU skipper said she’ll leave with pride as the squad was able prove their doubters wrong.

“It truly saddens me that I won’t be donning the green and gold for FEU anymore, but wow what an amazing season to end with. So many people doubted us this year, and we proved them wrong. We showed everyone what a Pusong Tamaraw is, and I couldn’t be any prouder with what we’ve accomplished,” she wrote.

True enough, their campaign this season was nothing short of a roller coaster ride both for the team and the volleyball pundits.

In fact, all throughout the season, the ladies in green-and-gold went through eight five-set matches.

But with Malabanan establishing her leadership, they managed to win all but one of these important matches, enough to earn another Final Four appearance.

In the semifinals, FEU didn’t go down without a fight as it pushed Ateneo to a decider before finally bowing out of contention.

Usually someone who let her game does the talking, Malabanan has to break out of her shell and take a bigger role as the leader of the Lady Tamaraws with the departure of Bernadeth Pons last year.

And for this, Malabanan couldn’t help but be proud.

Further, she also expressed her gratitude to FEU, saying she will always keep all the memories and lessons she had gained during her five-year stay.

“FEU, thank you for 5 incredible years! I will never forget my journey here, and will forever treasure it in my heart. I couldn’t have picked a better school to help me grow as a person. From learning tagalog to experiencing a new culture; the memories I’ve made with everyone at FEU will last a lifetime,” she wrote.

Malabanan was also grateful to batchmates Heather Guino-o and Kyle Negrito for their support all from the start of their UAAP careers until the end.

“To my fellow seniors, I love you so much and I’m so grateful for this last ride with you guys. Heather, thank you for inspiring me on the court, and being my motivation to always work hard. Kyle, thank you for always having my back, and guiding me if ever I needed help with anything,” she penned.

She also thanked her family, who was always present during her games, and the fans for their unwavering faith and trust to her and to the team.

Malabanan first played for FEU in Season 77. Often described as someone with raw potential waiting to be unfurled, she then became the Lady Tamaraws’ silent operator.

Under the tutelage of coach Shaq delos Santos (77-79) and coach George Pascua (80-81), Malabanan blossomed into one of the squad’s go-to player next to Pons and Toni Rose Basas.

On her final year, she steered FEU to its fifth straight semifinals stint. This aside from being included in the training pool of the Philippine national women’s volleyball team.

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Creamline, Valdez hope to repeat 2018 success, take on PetroGazz in PVL opener

Creamline is set for an early title defense start when the much-awaited Premiere Volleyball League (PVL) Reinforced Conference 2019 opens on May 26 at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan.

Looking to duplicate their successful 2018 campaign, the Cool Smashers will kick off their bid for back-to-back when they meet a rejuvenated PetroGazz squad in the 4 p.m. main event of the opening day double-header.

The defending champions left no stones unturned heading into the third season of the league.

Following the exit of its head coach for two years in Tai Bundit, the two-time PVL champs acquired the another foreign guru, this time from China – the world’s no. 2 in volleyball.

Creamline also maintained an intact lineup composed of national team campaigners Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado and Jema Galanza together with battle-tested Michele Gumabao, Mel Gohing, Fille Cainglet, Pau Soriano and Risa Sato.

The Cool Smashers will also reportedly banner Thai outside hitter Kuttika Kaewpin and Venezuela national team middle blocker Aleoscar Blanco while tapping possible three recruits from Far Eastern University, though no official announcements were made yet.

But while the teams vying for the title were trimmed to just six, the ladies in pink’s climb to the top will not be a cakewalk.

Posing as threats to the champs are beefed up Motolite led by Myla Pablo and last year’s semifinalist BanKo Perlas.

Also fighting for the throne are returning BaliPure, who missed the Open Conference last year, and the newcomer Pacific Town Army.

BaliPure and Pacific Town Army are billed to test their mettle in the season-opening, import-flavored conference at 2 p.m while Motolite and BanKo Perlas will start their bid on June 1.

Here’s the full schedule:

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LOOK: Former, future Tigresses react to UST’s sweep of Ateneo

The University of Sto. Tomas essayed a masterful straight set routing of Ateneo de Manila University in the Game 1 of the best-of-three Finals to move closer the highly-coveted UAAP Season 81 crown.

It was a feel-good victory for the whole España community.

Not only did the win ended the Lady Eagles 15-game win streak over them since 2012, but it also put the Golden Tigresses a win away from a championship, which they held last in Season 72.

And for these former and future Tigresses, the win meant more.

In fact, some members of the UST champion team from Season 69 such as the Queens Venus Bernal and Mary Jean Balse are present during Game 1.

Ranging from veterans Angge Tabaquero and Denise Tan to upcoming star Imee Hernandez, the golden-blooded spikers took to Twitter to express their joy.

Tabaquero, part of the Season 72 championship squad, and middle blocker Chloe Cortez could not contain their happiness.

Tan, a former UAAP Best Setter, was nothing but proud for the young guns. Same goes for middle blocker Jessey de Leon and libero Dancel Dusaran.

Maruja Banaticla and EJ Laure, who were both present at the venue to support the ladies in yellow, were also delighted.

Upcoming rookie Hernandez simply put emphasis on UST’s mantra this year: #KamiNaman

Pam Lastimosa, meanwhile, praised UST’s current Queen Tigress in Sisi Rondina, who erupted for 23 points for the win.

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After playing sparingly during elims, Bicar finally showing stripes as UST nears title

All throughout the UAAP Season 81, UST’s setter Alina Bicar has been playing sparingly.

With the entry of prized rookie Mafe Galanza in the fold, Bicar has to step back a bit as coach Kung Fu Reyes trusted the starting setter role to the newcomer 10-out-of-14 times during the eliminations.

But while this was the case, this did not dampen the spirits of the veteran playmaker as she has been shining for the Golden Tigresses as of late.

Following her impressive back-to-back game performances heading into the finals, Bicar put on another great setting job for UST during their straight-set win over Ateneo in the Game 1 of the best-of-three Finals earlier.

For Bicar, it was the trust of the coaches and her teammates that lead her to another good outing.

“Siyempre sabi ni coach magtiwala ka lang sa sarili mo [at] ‘pag nasa game ka mag-enjoy ka lang. Kung ano ‘yung desisyon mo, ituloy mo ‘yan kasi desisyon mo ‘yan. Nag-enjoy lang ako and nagtiwala lang ako sa mga spikers kasi may tiwala sila sa akin,” said Bicar, who has been starting for UST since the playoffs round.

Finally showing her stripes during the most important stretch of the tourney, the fourth year playmaker had a hand as the Tigresses inched closer to winning their 17th UAAP title.

With her well-distributed plays, the Lady Eagles have had a hard time protecting their side of the net as UST fired 46 big spikes, 20 of which came from Rondina’s 23-point output.

Bicar registered game-high 19 excellent sets off 79 tries, eclipsing the seven excellent sets showing of the league’s second-best setter Deanna Wong.

“Siyempre po nag-training din kami. Siyempre may game plan din kami. May halong game plan and diskarte ko lang talaga,” said Bicar, who added six points under her name.

Bicar and the rest of the Tigresses hope to seal the deal when they meet Ateneo for Game 2 on Wednesday.

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UST moves closer to title after Game 1 win over Ateneo, Rondina drops 23

First blood.

University of Sto. Tomas announced its return to the Finals in style as it prevailed over Ateneo de Manila University in three sets, 25-17, 25-16, 25-20, in the Game One of the best-of-three Finals of the UAAP Season 81 on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Fueled by their return to the Finals after an 8-year drought, the Golden Tigresses came out swinging to outplay the Lady Eagles and inch closer to winning their 17th UAAP volleyball championship.

It was not the same UST who squandered a two-set advantage in their second-round encounter as the squad finished the match in straight sets to score their first win over Ateneo since 2012.

Graduating MVP Sisi Rondina capped off the afternoon with 20 kills, two blocks and an ace for 23 big points to lead UST.

UST waxed hot right from the get-go, taking advantage of Ateneo’s reception woes whilst hitting them from all angles.

The Lady Eagles seemed to have regrouped in the third before Rondina took over and ignited the Tigresses anew, even scoring two of the last three points for the ladies in gold-and-white.

Kat Tolentino was the lone double-figure scorer for Ateneo with 12 points.

UST looks to end the series and cop the title on Wednesday.

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Fans rally #JusticeForMaddie after Madayag’s alleged “Best Blocker” snub

Following the announcement of the individual awardees for UAAP Season 81, fans rallied #JusticeForMaddie on Twitter in protest against the award given to Ateneo’s middle blocker Maddie Madayag.

This after Madayag was only awarded second-best in her position, which apparently did not suit well for the fans as the veteran Lady Eagle finished the eliminations on top of the blocking charts.

The graduating veteran from Katipunan had a hand in her team’s return to the Finals as she put on an impressive defense at the net all season long.

Madayag capped off her stellar elims performance with a tournament-best 44 kill blocks for a 0.86 kill block average by set.

Aside from this, the spiker out of Davao also inked her name in the history books of the league after registering 11 huge blocks in a single match against UST — breaking Celine Hernandez’ nine in Season 70.

But in a stunning twist of fate, NU’s Roselyn Doria (0.69 average kill blocks by set) was awarded as the 1st Middle Blocker while Madayag was only second.

Ateneo fans deemed this questionable, citing that Madayag was “robbed” as stats wise the Lady Eagle was the leading blocker.

Meanwhile, some demanded an explanation from the UAAP board.

But some also made clear that they only want Madayag to get what she deserves and that they were not discrediting Doria.

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