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.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

UAAP Season 80 Women’s Volleyball Preview

UAAP Season 80 Women’s Volleyball Preview
by rick olivares

If last year was perhaps one of the most competitive seasons in UAAP Women’s Volleyball, this Season 80 could be the most unpredictable.

Why so? Aren’t most teams still packed with veterans?

Sure. Every team is stocked with veterans. Even UE. But there’s the rub as well.

You see in previous years, the question has always been maturity and consistency. Now there is a saying that age is a high price for maturity and many of these squads will have players graduating after this season…. so the time is now.

What makes this season unpredictable? Is La Salle not their frightening old self?
Okay, Ateneo losing Jia Morado who forewent his final playing year, Mich Morente to grades (and transferring to La Salle), and Kim Gequillana to an injury really hurts the six-time UAAP finalists. La Salle… now that is still a very good volleyball team even if Kim Fajardo isn’t there. Michelle Cobb showed so much promise in spot duty last year. They remain the team to beat.

But with Ateneo’s unpredictability more so since all their off-court drama of a few months ago left volleyball fans and observers with questions that remain to be answered – that opens the doors for underachievers and those knocking on the door.

De La Salle University
Easily the most complete team in the league. And they’ve got depth too. If Aduke Ogunsaya did well with not much experience last year how much has she grown? Is it May Luna’s time to rise? You know Ramil De Jesus has a way of developing players. I don’t think there will be pressure on Kim Dy to strap this team on her back. Majoy Baron, as team captain will do her part. Let’s face it, this team has so many weapons on both ends of the court. Pencil them in for a Final Four slot.

National University
For three years running, they won the collegiate conference of the Shakey’s V-League/Premier Volleyball League. Yet come UAAP time, it didn’t mean squat. And it doesn’t again.

They should have won it when Ateneo lost Alyssa Valdez last year. But they didn’t. Here they are again. Talent isn’t a question but heart. All the different parts played well for their club and school team volleyball in the pre-season. Even Roselyn Doria who went from being a starter two years ago to warming the bench in the next saw playing time in this pre-season.

Who to watch? Can new coach Babes Castillo get this team to achieve the prize that has eluded them? That is one half of the question. The other is have the players finally play to their potential?

Far Eastern University
The have the big guns and depth to challenge La Salle. The question now is their mental strength. I beg to disagree that they were in years past the team no one wanted to face. Of course not, Ateneo sure wanted to play them because they heart was the question.

What is crucial for the Lady Tamaraws is to stabilize their setter position. The setter is like having a good playmaker in basketball. She will get everyone involved. And if new coach George Pascua can also bring out the best in Jerrili Malabanan the way Roger Gorayeb did with BaliPure, then she will be of huge help to Bernadeth Pons. And if Celine Domingo can help out in the middle… watch out.

Another complete team.

Adamson University
I’d say a team that should be exciting to watch. Last year was the perfect storm for the Lady Falcons. Some players left while some were injured. Now, they are all back including a huge pick up in Christine Soyud. They were not only impressive in the pre-season but they chalked up big wins. Now can they translate that into a final four run?

Yes, they can. I think that returning setter Fen Emnas learned so much from her time playing club volleyball. If she can duplicate that in the UAAP, she’ll challenge Jasmine Nabor in excellent sets since she now has weapons everywhere. But let’s see if Mylene Paat learned something, if May Roque can find her old form, if Bernadette Flora play more consistently, and Jema Galanza to start scoring heavily.

Watch out for this team.

University of the Philippines
For the first time in two years, the expectations aren’t that high. Methinks they will benefit from flying under the radar. The question for this team isn’t, “do they have the talent?” The proper question to ask is, “how will they answer adversity?”

Two seasons ago, they didn’t start well but they did well in the second round. Last year, they had an early good start then completely fell apart. Now, can they bounce back? Streaks don’t mean anything. It’s how they answer adversity.

Is Japanese coach Godfrey Okumu the answer to their woes on their sideline? It’s a wait and see situation just like for every team.

University of Santo Tomas
They went from – man, they’ve got weapons to oh, (fill in some unkind word here). Like Ateneo, there was an unexpected departure in Ria Meneses and an unexpected injury in EJ Laure and boy, does that put a sever crimp in the scheme of things for Kung-Fu Reyes. Can Carla Sandoval finally show her wares because Cherry Rondina is going to need all the help she can get.

If Alina Bicar can finally get this team going and give some of her confidence-challenged teammates a nice set, then they will battle. Sure, they still have talent but like most teams, do they have the will and fortitude to get it done?

Ateneo de Manila University
The good old days seem not to long ago yet are so far away. It would be easy to say that they are flying under the radar too but remember there are still a bunch of veterans here who won and lost championships. Besides, this is Ateneo. So there are still expectations. If they get on a streak, they will be dangerous. For all their on and off-court turmoil, there is still quality in this roster. If they have repaired their trust issues, then they will be fine. They’ll knock down a team or two. But it won’t be easy for this team.

Have the “happy happy” days run their course? All I can say is if they want to contend, head coach Anusorn Bundit will have to resort to more than just saying “happy happy”.

University of the East

For all their poor and sub-par seasons, this is a veteran team. They played better towards the end of the second round of last season. Can they build on that? Of all the teams, I’d say the quote I used earlier – age as a high price for maturity – applies to this team. The question too is on coach Francis Vicente. Got any more tricks up your sleeve?

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