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, February 5, 2017

UAAP Women’s Volleyball Preview: FEU and La Salle

UAAP Women’s Volleyball Preview: FEU and La Salle
by rick olivares

This UAAP Women’s Volleyball Season 79 will be one of the most hotly contested in recent memory. Perhaps, ever.

Six of the eight schools will fight tooth and nail for those precious Final Four slots not to mention the championship.

We’ve looked at six of the eight schools – National University, University of the East, Ateneo de Manila University, University of Santo Tomas, University of the Philippines, and Adamson University. Now, let’s examine the last two squads – Far Eastern University, and defending champion De La Salle University.

Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws
It has been a few years since the Lady Tamaraws were very competitive. Finally, they have a team – young and with some experience players – to crowd the Final Four race.

Like UST, FEU showed tremendous potential in the V-League’s Collegiate Conference. This is a team that goes to a 10-woman rotation at the very least. That means they are deep in every position.

One might make a case that Kyla Negrito isn’t as steady at the setter position as Gyzelle Sy who used up her playing years. She’s now had a few extra months to work on her playmaking to set up Chin Basas, a resurgent Bernadeth Pons, Heather Guino-o, and Carlota Hernandez not to mention their tall frontline of Remy Palma and Jerrili Malabanan. And if Negrito falters, Maria Angelica Cayuna will backstop her.

In my opinion, aside from their depth, what makes them dangerous is they finally know they have the pieces to compete. It’s all mental now. They have to really want it.

Furthermore, I think that head coach Shaq Delos Santos is perfect for this team. His low key demeanor and encouraging ways should help nurture this team.

A gauge for this team is their immediate opening day assignment – the defending champs. As the saying goes, “magkakasubukan agad.”

De La Salle Lady Spikers
The defending champions will be everyone’s yardstick. If they can battle the Lady Spikers then they will compete.

While this team has lost key players in Mika Reyes and Ara Galang that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. They have some of the arguably the best in the league – setter Kim Fajardo, inured or not; middle hitter Majoy Baron, hitter Kim Dy; and libero Dawn Macandili. Outside hitter May Luna who shone in the early stages of last year’s tournament will flourish as she will no doubt be given more playing time with Galang’s departure.

Kim Dy will be expected to raise her game to another level. Flush with experience and confidence, she’ll thrive. All she needed was a chance to show what she could do after being stuck behind a very deep team in previous years. Like Luna, expect Dy to flourish some more.

I do not believe that head coach Ramil De Jesus has a weaker bench. Not at all. If UAAP history has taught us anything it is De Jesus has a knack for finding gems and unleashing them on an unsuspecting league.

He will also benefit from the return of Desiree Cheng who was injured last season, she will be of valuable help either from the utility or the middle.

Having said all of that, more than the big names on this line-up, what makes them good is they have superb leaders and go-to players. Key ingredients for a team out chasing for a title. That’s Fajardo, Macandili, and Dy.

The success of La Salle last season was founded on defense. Make that impeccable net and floor defense. The onus is on them to continue that.

And they will have their hands full this year as everyone will try to take them down.

Make no mistake, this remains a very good volleyball squad.

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