NCAA standouts make their presence felt in the 2018 PVL Reinforced Conference

The National Collegiate Athletics Association’s volleyball program has arguably gone unnoticed compared to its counterpart – the University Athletics Association of the Philippines.

But the oldest collegiate league has produced players — past and present –who proved they can still excel even against the best of the best in Philippine Volleyball.

In fact, two of the top five leading local scorers in the current season of the Premier Volleyball League are products of the NCAA, which indicates that the level of skill and talent in the league is not too far off from its rival UAAP.

Fox Sports PH decided to list down NCAA standouts who are making their respective impacts in the 2018 PVL Reinforced Conference:

1. Jovie Prado (Arellano/Tacloban)

Prado is one of the more underrated open spikers we have in the country. She is Tacloban’s second leading scorer and the third best scoring local next to Myla Pablo and Alyssa Valdez.

The power hitter can rack up points at her own will. Her smart but subtle approach make her an asset to whichever team she will play.

She has been a vital cog to Tacloban’s decent outing in the preliminaries so far, making the Fighting Warays one of the possible contenders for this conference’s championship.

Prado is a product of the Arellano University Lady Chiefs who are lording the NCAA taraflex in recent years. The team has won three of the last four NCAA titles (Season 90, 92 & 93) with Prado bagging the Finals MVP plum in 92nd edition.

2. Jeanette Panaga (CSB/Pocari)

Panaga is a former College of St. Benilde standout and a two-time NCAA Best Blocker.

She led the Lady Blazers to a breakthrough championship in Season 91 – their first title – after downing thrice-to-beat holders San Sebastian Lady Stags, the same season where she also clinched the Finals MVP accolade.

The middle blocker is part of the Pocari Lady Warriors champion squad who won the 2017 PVL Reinforced Conference trophy.

However, Pocari now playing alongside Air Force, has been up-and-down in the current import-laden conference, finding themselves with more losses than wins in the preliminaries.

Panaga is the fourth best scoring local and the seventh best blocker in the tournament.

3. Gretchel Soltones (San Sebastian/PayMaya)

Soltones is definitely one of the more remarkable names the NCAA has produced in recent years. As what her moniker Lady Beast suggests, many idolize her for her explosive hitting prowess and leadership.

Unfortunately, Soltones graduated without a title in the collegiate ranks, but has bagged multiple recognitions including three Season MVP awards.

She is also a one-time Shakey’s V-League MVP and led BaliPure to the 2017 PVL Open Conference title where she also won Finals MVP.

Now with PayMaya, Soltones has been playing sparingly as she alternates with Jerrili Malabanan in the wing position together with their import Tess Rountree.

With her limited minutes, the scoring machine has only tallied 27 markers so far in the conference.

4. Shola Alvarez (JRU/Tacloban)

Alvarez is an alumna of Jose Rizal University. The reigning NCAA Season 93 MVP led the Lady Bombers to their first ever Final Four appearance in the same season since the school started its volleyball program in 2008.

She was part of Tacloban’s starting six in the earlier part of the tournament but has seen a dip in her minutes in their recent games. She registered 34 points in the preliminaries.

Tacloban has a formidable mix of open hitters in Prado, Alvarez and Heather Guino-o and if completely utilized, the team could really be the dark horse of the tournament.

5. Cesca Racraquin (San Beda/Pocari)

Racraquin has had a noteworthy accomplishments early in her career. She won the NCAA Rookie of the Year in Season 92 and led the Lady Red Spikers from being a cellar-dweller team to the Finals in the following season.

With three more years left in her collegiate playing career, expect her to be the Face of the NCAA in the following years.

She first rose to fame when she joined the Creamline Cool Smashers in the 2017 PVL Season, where they finished third in both the Reinforced and Open Conference.

The open hitter has jump shipped to the Pocari-Air Force Lady Warriors for the 2018 season.

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