Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Team Baguio Summer Spikers: For the love of the game

The Team Baguio Summer Spikers during the opening ceremony for the 13th season of the Shakey's V-League.
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The Team Baguio Summer Spikers: For the love of the game
by rick olivares

How much do you love the game?

It’s enduring at least 10 hour drives — five going to Manila and another five going home. As for that ride home, sometimes, after a painful loss where they were drubbed, the five hours seems infinitely longer and definitely excruciating. 

It means sometimes arriving in the wee hours of the morning that you can’t go to bed anymore as it’s time to prepare for work or school.

It means every now and then chipping in your own money to charter a small coaster to bring them over to Manila that costs several thousands of pesos.

That’s how much the Team Baguio Summer Spikers love the game of volleyball. 

“It sounds like a sacrifice, but playing in the Shakey’s V-League is a dream for all of us coaches and players,” says Team Baguio head coach Clarissa Tolentino. “To be on the same court as Alyssa Valdez and many other great players, it inspires us to be better in our game. And hopefully, improve not only our respective school volleyball programs but also the sport in Baguio."

Setter Shirley Balantac & coach Clarissa Tolentino
The Summer Spikers are a mix of current and former varsity athletes of St. Louis University, the University of Baguio, and the University of the Cordilleras. The former varsity players are now gainfully employed; one who works in human resources, another at the local Department of Public Works and Health, and the third at a pharmaceutical company.

Notwithstanding their 1-6 record during the Open Conference of Season 12 of the Shakey’s V-League, they are looking forward to hopefully a more competitive performance this new season.

More than scratching off something on their bucket list, playing in Manila is an opportunity for the players to expand their horizons. “All our athletes take part in the Baguio-Benguet Educational Athletic League (BBEAL). Like everyone else, the objective is to win. If we are not able to achieve that then it is to gain the experience and learn so we can win next time,” adds Tolentino who in Team Baguio’s V-League debut last year was the team’s setter. “We have a young team with some young players who we hope to develop. These are Ann Atuban and Nae-Nae Arances who play the outside and opposite hitter position.”

Their names may be largely unfamiliar to volleyball fans who seem to be mostly well-versed for those who ply their trade in the Manila-based leagues, but the Summer Spikers carry with them a measure of pride that one of their own was picked up by Navy — May Madulid. 

While Madulid isn’t a household name yet, Team Baguio points to two volleybelles who went to school in Baguio — Adamson’s Mylene Paat and De La Salle’s Mary Joy Baron. Although Paat hails from Pangasinan, she went to the University of Baguio before transferring to Manila. Baron on the other hand is a Baguio City native who before she departed for the Taft-based school, went to Baguio City National High School.

“It’s not much, but we are proud of the players who came from Baguio,” beams Tolentino. “And all this helps the volleyball scene in Baguio that is growing. We hope that our participation in the tournament will really enhance our capabilities."

It’s close to 4pm, Sunday, the 22nd of May. The Opening Ceremony of the 13th season of the Shakey’s V-League just ended. Team Baguio heads over to Greenhills Shopping Center to look around. 

An hour isn’t definitely enough to browse around especially on a busy Sunday. However, there’s the matter of the five hour drive back to Baguio (they arrived right past 11pm). For tomorrow, there’s work and training (school’s still out for summer). As exhausting as the trip is, there are smiles all around in being a part of the opening program. The sport’s stars - Valdez, Grethcel Soltones, Michelle Gumabao, Jaja Santiago, Nicole Tiamzon, and many others — were there in front of them. People they saw on television or read about on the internet or in the newspaper. And there’s excitement too as well as the competition proper starts next weekend. 

They’ll charter a coaster (if it’s available). Leave late Friday evening (around 11pm). Arrive by daybreak in Manila (then get some rest in some place where they can crash). Then head over to the Filoil Flying V Centre for their first match. After that, they’ll take that five hour trip back home to Baguio.

It’s the price they have to pay for their volleyball dreams.

Team Baguio:
Yanyan Torres (opposite)
Cherry Atuban (setter)
Ann Atuban (outside hitter)
Shirley Balantac (setter)
Cielo Abella (libero)
Rochelle Degay (libero)
Nae-Nae Arances (opposite)
Lyka Reyes (utility)
Nicole Guyguyon (middle)
Melai Dicksen (middle)
Belle Belsa (opposite)
Loys Costales (middle)
Xianny Tsuchiya (outside)
Colleen Rossi (outside)

Clarissa Tolentino (head coach)
Jhiesel Agudia (assistant)
Roxanne Almonte (trainer)
Cindy Benitez (trainer)


Note: Before Team Baguio was formed, St. Louis University competed in the First Conference of Season 11. They went 0-5. 

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