February is the month that volleyball fans have long been waiting for. The UAAP volleyball season has begun and with the tougher competition this year, all teams are looking forward to getting a spot in the finals.
For women’s volleyball, it seems that all schools have prepared tremendously with teams training abroad as in the likes of UST, UP, and Ateneo going to Thailand and Japan.
Adamson acquired an all-women, not to mention, star-studded coaching staff led by an American coach, while the rest had their own out-of-town training and team building activities. With women’s volleyball enjoying a bigger fan base, the Smart Araneta Coliseum opened its doors to welcome the first week of the league last February 4.
Two weeks into the season and we have already seen spectacular matches that seemed like a championship bout. One of the most surprising performances so far is by the UE Lady Warriors.
They plunged into action in the opening day facing the NU Lady Bulldogs led by the 6-foot-4 Jaja Santiago. As soon as the Lady Warriors stepped on the court, you could already sense their confidence, which they lacked last season. UE stunned NU taking the first set, but the latter took over and won the match in four sets. Also, just this Wednesday, we witnessed an unanticipated straight-set win by last year’s fourth placers, the UP Lady Maroon’s over the defending champions, the De La Salle Lady Spikers. Even if it ended in three sets, it was a tough match throughout the game that could have gone in favor of either team. In the end, the Lady Maroons showed what it seems to be the fruit of their revamped line-up under Coach Jerry Yee.
Halfway into the first round one can say that most teams are at-par with each other, which spells out exciting matches.
Over the years, the collegiate volleyball landscape has tremendously changed. Ten years ago, one would only see family members and friends watching the ball games and sometimes schoolmates donned in their cheerleading outfits. Now, it is an event heavily anticipated by the Filipino community here and abroad. And thanks to the media and technology, one can watch the games live or on replay on television, or catch it by logging on the Internet.
Volleyball was becoming one of the Philippines’ favorite sports. Before, it was not a sought-after event held in a huge arena. But in last season’s championship match, the excitement brought by the rivalry of La Salle and Ateneo broke the attendance record of 22,848, filling up the same coliseum that hosted the Thrilla In Manila in 1975.
We also see that participating schools nowadays invest a lot in developing their volleyball programs. Teams put more effort into recruitment, courting potential players living as far as Mindanao, or even the US. For this season alone, some teams went to Baguio for high-altitude training and some went to Thailand and Japan to experience a different kind of discipline playing the sport.
A staff would not only have coaches but would now include trainers and physical therapists, and I wouldn’t be surprised if sports psychologists would eventually join the lineup.
It’s exciting to see what lies ahead for the UAAP. Every year, the competition keeps getting better and better. Today, it is rare to see a player who would get point from an easy soft hit.
Everyone is hustling and has loaded up their artillery, bent on becoming the best collegiate volleyball team in the country.
My heart still jumps a little at the sight of volleyball nets perched up and tied around coconut trees in the provinces. It just goes to show that just like basketball, volleyball is here to stay.