University of Santo Tomas (UST) is traditionally known as a powerhouse in collegiate volleyball. It has established a solid volleyball program, winning 15 crowns in the UAAP women’s division.
One of the oldest existing universities in Asia, UST, also served as a haven of the country’s volleyball stars.
With that, let’s take a look at the all-time starting six, who bannered the España-based Tigresses to golden heights:
• Venus Bernal
Known for her ‘butterfly approach’ in spiking, Bernal, is arguably one of the best volleyball players in the country.
She led UST to a title in UAAP Season 69, sweeping rival Far Eastern University in a best-of-three Finals series. At that time, she was also hailed as the Season’s MVP.
Bernal also made history when she bagged the MVP award in the inaugural Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational in 2013 as part of finalist Cignal HD Spikers.
• Angeli Tabaquero
Tabaquero is one of the most reliable outside hitters that the Tigresses ever had. The Bulacan-native’s collegiate performance was more than just delivering numbers.
Tabaquero can play both offense and defense.
In fact, she was a vital cog in UST’s drive to the throne in Season 72, where she tallied 172 points in the elimination round and pumped in 29 points in the two games of the Finals against the Paneng Mercado-skippered De La Salle.
Honorable Mentions: Maruja Banaticla, Sisi Rondina
• Mary Jean Balse-Pabayo
Balse-Pabayo played an important role when UST won its 14th UAAP crown in 2007. She was a legitimate threat to her opponents in front of the net for her superb defense.
A former UAAP Best Attacker, Balse-Pabayo, is the other half of the Tigresses’ ‘Double B’. The other one is Bernal.
She also steered the España-based crew to a handful of unforgettable finishes in the Shakey’s V-League before bringing home the bronze medal in the 23rd SEA Games.
• Maika Ortiz
Standing 5-foot-9 tall, Ortiz, also known as the queen of running attacks, is arguably one of the best middle hitters that UST has produced. Her lightning-quick kills are so fast that it appeared blurry even in a slow motion video.
Together with Tabaquero, Maizo, and Dimaculangan, Ortiz won her lone UAAP crown in Season 72. She was awarded Best Attacker of the elite college league after two years.
She also donned the national colors in the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games. Ortiz also saw action in the 19th Asian Senior Women’s Championship last year in Binan City, Laguna.
Opposite Spiker: Aiza Maizo-Pontillas
Who will forget the ‘Kapitana’ in classic jersey No. 8 that led the Tigresses to numerous UAAP and V-League titles?
Maizo-Pontillas was originally recruited to serve as back-up setter of UST in UAAP Season 68. But on the following season, she proved that she could be a formidable spiker.
At 29, the multi-awarded lefty spiker still managed to bag the MVP plum in the 2017 PSL All-Filipino Conference, proving that her firepower is far from fading away.
Honorable Mention: Judy Caballejo
Setter: Rhea Dimaculangan
Dimaculangan’s smart playmaking skills and tough serves keyed for UST to dominate in UAAP Season 72, where she received the Best Server award and hailed as Finals MVP.
She is also known for consistently tossing variety of sets, making her spikers more comfortable to have her as a setter. No wonder why she became one of the most decorated setters in the country.
Honorable Mention: Denise Tan
Libero: Jessica Curato
Curato is the most steady defense specialist that UST has developed. She took the spotlight in their best-of-three title series against La Salle in UAAP Season 72 when she suited up even if she’s still recovering from typhoid fever.
She had 13 important digs despite having two days of practice as the Tigresses turned down the Lady Spikers in four, 24-26, 25-23, 25-16, 25-21, in Game 1 of the Finals.