Rookies to watch out for this UAAP Season 82 (Part 1)

(first of two parts)

For some players, the much-anticipated UAAP Season 82 women’s volleyball tournament will be their last year donning collegiate jerseys.

Tots Carlos, Isa Molde and Justin Dorog from UP, Tin Tiamzon and Aduke Ogunsanya from La Salle, UE’s Mean Mendrez and Ateneo’s Kat Tolentino and Jho Maraguinot — the list goes on. At the end of the season, these players will officially close a chapter in their volleyball career.

As the old adage goes, players come and go.

And as veterans say goodbye to their UAAP journey filled with school chants, five-setters, and learning, a new generation of young volleybelles are about to start theirs.

Ushering the new era for UAAP, here are some of the rookies to watch out for when the newest collegiate war fires off this Saturday.

Faith Nisperos, Ateneo

Starting off this list is arguably the valedictorian of the batch: Ateneo’s incoming rookie Faith Nisperos.

It was sort of a homecoming for Nisperos as she studied elementary in Ateneo de Davao prior to playing for the Nazareth School of National University in the juniors division. As early as now, she is being hailed as the torchbearer for the Lady Eagles from this season forward.

The 5-foot-10 wing spiker is a two-time girls’ division MVP laced with multiple championships. Her vast championship experience in the junior ranks could prove vital as Ateneo guns for its second straight title this year.

Nisperos already showed a glimpse of what she can offer when she exploded for 35 big points to lead the Lady Eagles past College of St. Benilde in the bronze medal match of the 2019 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Collegiate Conference.

Imee Hernandez, UST

The University of Sto. Tomas has a long list of quality middle blockers: from Roxanne Pimentel and Ging Balse to Maika Ortiz and Riri Meneses. The entry of rookie Imee Hernandez to the Golden Tigresses’ lair might just continue that tradition.

Hernandez is a 5-foot-10 middle blocker out of UST high school. Tall and athletic, she is not a stereotype player in her position as she can both effectively hit from the middle and from the wings — the kind of middle blockers fans last saw with the Santiago sisters.

She was instrumental in UST’s offseason campaigns: a bridesmaid finish in the 2019 PVL Collegiate Conference, where she also bagged the 2nd Best Middle Blocker citation and a bronze medal feat in the 2018 Unigames in Iloilo.

Louie Romero, Adamson

Setting, among other things, is Adamson University’s problems last season, and the seasons before that. But that is about to change with the arrival of playmaker Louie Romero.

Romero is a gem recruit.

The 5-foot-3 setter out of Kings Montessori School has several championships under her belt. In 2018, Romero steered National Capital Region en route to a gold medal in Palarong Pambansa. Just last year, she led Adamson University to its first-ever PVL Collegiate Conference title.

Romero will not just be in charge of the team’s offensive decisions as she is appointed captain of the Lady Falcons this season

Thea Gagate, DLSU

Coming off a third-place finish last season, De La Salle University is reportedly fielding in eight rookies this year in its bid for redemption. Leading the pack of blue-chip recruits is middle blocker Thea Gagate.

The 6-foot-2 tower made an accelerated start for the Ramil de Jesus program when she transferred from NSNU to La Salle prior to senior high school. With this, she is billed to solve DLSU’s woes in the middle.

While her co-rookies compete in offseason tournaments like the televised PVL, Gagate was tucked away in La Salle’s Razon Sports Complex — much like how her predecessors were honed. It wasn’t until the Lady Spikers joined the 2019 Unigames did fans see what this middle blocker is capable of.

There, she steered the green-and-white to a championship in what could be her official introduction to the collegiate ranks.

(Photo from Facebook/F2 Logistics and Sports Vision)