Posted Feb 16th 2014
UAAP Women's Volley Midseason Awards (Part 1)
By Josiah Albelda Posted Jan 22nd 2014
We're midway through Season 76 of the UAAP women's volleyball tournament and it's still the De La Salle University Lady Spikers who have been showing the way so far.
The wards of coach Ramil de Jesus have been unbeaten since losing in the first game of Season 75 and even with the departure of vital cogs before this tourney, La Salle has been invincible both on offense and on defense.
National University, meanwhile, has lived up to the challenger billing and, save for one stinker against the Lady Spikers, the Lady Bulldogs have been pretty impressive in handing lopsided beatings.
Mildly surprising is Ateneo de Manila University, who, despite having its lineup decimated by the graduation of its famed Fab Five, are battling tooth-and-nail for a stab at the Final Four.
Let's look at UAAP Sports TV's picks for the best (and most disappointing) individual performers halfway through the season.
Most Valuable Player: Aby Marano, De La Salle University
She may not be the most dominating presence in the stat sheet, but Marano has been the driving force behind the team that shut down such luminaries like Alyssa Valdez and Dindin Santiago.
The five-foot-10 middle spiker averaged a rather pedestrian 9.7 points off 6.3 hits, 2.1 blocks and 1.3 aces in the first round, but the intangibles that Marano brought day in, day out have propelled La Salle to a brilliant 7-0 run in the tournament.
She anchors the vaunted Lady Spikers defense, delivers the telling blows when it matters, is the heart and soul of the three-time defending champions and just gives you the fire and passion that goes way beyond the box score.
If I'm building a team from scratch, I would pick Marano to be my franchise player. That is how valuable she is.
Alyssa Valdez, Ateneo de Manila University
Sheila Pineda, Adamson University
Rookie of the Year: Bernadeth Pons, Far Eastern University
This rookie group has not lacked in talent, what with the likes of Jia Morado, Jaja Santiago, Shaya Adorador and Des Cheng providing us a glimpse of the future with their rock-solid play.
But Pons stands out primarily because of the load she's had to carry as a rookie. Thrust into the spotlight following the departure of ex-FEU top gun Rose Vargas, the Talisay, Negros Occidental has not disappointed in leading the Lady Tamaraws to the top four after Round 1.
Pons, a former Palarong Pambansa scoring machine, finished eighth in scoring after seven games, posting 11.4 points off 9.9 kills, 0.7 blocks and 0.9 aces. She delivered her signature game of the season against Adamson University, when she fired 27 points highlighted by 21 kills, three blocks and three aces.
At this rate, Pons is just scratching the surface and once she learns to make wise use of her power, then we might be seeing an Alyssa Valdez redux.
Jia Morado, Ateneo de Manila University
Jaja Santiago, National University
Most Improved Player: Pam Lastimosa, University of Santo Tomas
The Tigresses have not had an inspiring season so far, as they crashed with a 2-5 record in the first round. But if there's one bright spot to see in UST's play, it is the emergence of Lastimosa as a prime offensive weapon.
After just norming 5.9 points in Season 75, the Cagayan de Oro native is now in the top five in scoring, averaging 12.9 points off 10.6 kills, 1.6 blocks and 0.7 aces and surpassing her 2012-13 total after just seven games.
Lastimosa hasn't just brought the numbers, but she's also proving to be a leader who has shown how not to give up even if her teammates seem to be wavering. Just look at that Ateneo-UST five-setter for evidence.
Kathy Bersola, University of the Philippines
Rem Palma, Far Eastern University