Just 4 games into Season 78 and the action is already reaching fever-pitch as all 8 UAAP teams scramble to get an early lead in the team rankings.
Though there were a couple of straight-set matches that happened, it is undeniable how the level of play from all squads went up a notch, giving all the fans 1 intense match after another.
And while La Salle and Ateneo are sitting atop the team standings—as expected—some individuals from lower seeded teams stole the show.
Here are the top 10 player rankings after the first full week of the collegiate volleyball action in the women’s division.
10. Joy Dacoron, Adamson
After getting little to no playing time at all last year, Joy Dacoron made a successful debut as a vital part of Adamson’s starting 6, inheriting the 2nd middle blocker position for the team’s former team captain Faye Guevara.
Dacoron still has a long way to go in terms of her timing in hammering the ball for a kill but surprise, surprise! She is currently the leading best blocker in the tournament.
Despite being ranked only 22nd in scoring, the Balamban City native is dominating in net defense, averaging 1.11 blocks per set.
9. Isa Molde and Justine Dorog, UP
UP’s 1-2 punch is at it again.
After wreaking havoc in the Shakey’s V-League last year, Isa Molde and Justine Dorog have taken over a big bulk of the offense for the Lady Maroons.
Combining for 39 points in 2 games, the duo continues to prove that they are well worth the hype.
Dorog is ranked 7th best spiker and 6th best server while Molde also shone defensively, figuring in the top 10 best diggers of the tournament.
Not yet impressed? UP still has 12 more games in the eliminations. You’ll get there.
8. Toni Rose Basas, FEU
One of the biggest revelations so far is FEU’s Toni Rose Basas.
Many of the previews talked about how Gyzel Sy’s return could aide the likes of Remy Palma and Bernadeth Pons in their offense but like a best kept secret, Basas was all of a sudden the Lady Tamaraws’ go-to girl.
Something about her changed and according to her, it is her approach.
True enough, she is faster now in swinging her spiking hand causing her to lnd as 7th best scorer and 6th best spiker.
The Pons-Basas combination is starting to look like a real threat.
7. Jaja Santiago, NU
4th best scorer, 3rd best spiker and 4th best blocker. Are volleyball fans still surprised with the prowess of NU’s wunderkind Jaja Santiago?
The Lady Bulldogs may have dropped their 1st game against Ateneo but they came back with a vengeance, edging out Adamson in 4 sets.
NU remains to be one of the stronger teams on paper mostly because of the dominating presence of the 6-foot-5 middle blocker.
Her killer serves are missing, though. But aside from that, it’s business as usual for the gentle giant.
6. Kim Fajardo, La Salle
Some players crack under pressure when named team captain while some, like Kim Fajardo, dazzle even more.
La Salle’s 1st 2 games in the tournament was like a display of Fajardo’s level of play back in Season 75, a time when the team’s transition from defense to offense was at its finest.
What changed? It could be partly credited to the better reception of her teammates but mostly, it’s Fajardo’s desire to lead her team by example.
In the Lady Spikers’ match against determined UP, the setter distributed the ball so well that all of her attackers finished in double digits while she, too, was impressive with 8 points and 41 excellent sets.
Good call in picking her as team captain, coach Ramil de Jesus.
5. Dawn Macandili, La Salle
“Inspired lang ako.”
This is how Dawn Macandili explained the flawless reception she provided in order for La Salle to finish off UP.
Indeed, it was an inspired performance as she finished with 14 excellent receptions and 12 excellent digs. These numbers solidified her hold as the tournament’s best receiver and 2nd best digger so far.
Whatever or whoever inspires her, La Salle must find out for it could be the key for the squad to bring the crown back to Taft.
4. Mika Reyes, La Salle
Are we done discussing yet the age-old myth that Mika Reyes has not enough power as a middle blocker?
If we are, can we shift to talking about how Reyes has been a steady source of offense for La Salle in Season 78?
After top scoring in her team’s game against FEU, the 5-foot-11 spiker once again finished in double digits against UP, making her the most efficient attacker so far in the tournament with a whopping 51.28 % accuracy in spiking.
It looks like she is on a mission to prove her naysayers wrong and she ain’t done yet.
Reyes, however, is sorely missed in the blocking department but the tournament is just on its 1st week so there’s tons of time for her to catchup.
3. Alyssa Valdez, Ateneo
Raise your hand if you think Alyssa Valdez is just warming up before going full-blast in Ateneo’s next games!
Though Valdez is already 3rd in scoring, 8th in spiking and 8th in serving, considering her capabilities, the possibility of going higher in each skill set is endless.
Losing top-tier defensive players like Denden Lazaro and Ella de Jesus is tough. The Katipunan squad is still adjusting. But if there’s one team who knows how to do in-season adjustments, it is Ateneo.
Never count Ateneo out because just like what many UAAP coaches said, as long as the Lady Eagles have an Alyssa Valdez, they will be a top contender to the crown.
If you’ve watched Ateneo’s matchup against NU, you’ll understand just how vast the extent of Valdez’s talent and heart is.
2. Jema Galanza, Adamson
Jema Galanza, according to her coach, is not comfortable being compared to Adamson’s former stars like Angela Benting and Bang Pineda. It is not in any way to disrespect her seniors.
But if comparisons are inevitable, we can start by how she is taller at 5-foot-7 and packs more power to her spikes than the legends Benting and Pineda.
With 45 points in 2 games, Galanza is now ranked 2nd in scoring and spiking. And she can defend the ball well, too, finishing the first week at #5 in digging.
Impressive, yes, but what she needs to learn from the former Lady Falcons is their ability to score even on broken plays.
If she masters the art that is wise ball placement, then she is truly on her way to proving she is a new breed of a spiker for the San Marcelino squad.
1. Cherry Rondina, UST
This early, PH volleyball fans are already running out of praises for UST’s diminutive bomb Cherry Rondina.
In the Golden Tigresses’ debut, the Cebuana uncorked 30 big points against Adamson and in their match against Ateneo, she picked up where she left off when she finished with 21 markers.
Yes, UST is yet to win a match, but individual skills-wise, Rondina is proving to be a worthy replacement for Pam Lastimosa, who tore her ACL back in November.
She is #1 in scoring, #4 in spiking, #2 in serving and, despite standing only at 5-foot-5, she is also the 9th best blocker of the tournament to date.
UAAP’s new darling of the crowd continues to amaze teammates and foes alike. And best believe she is not done yet. — By Mac Dionisio