Cagayan hands RC Cola 2-game skid in PH Super Liga

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MANILA, Philippines — Another good start unsustained.

RC Cola’s bid to notch their maiden win failed anew after being defeated by the Lady Rising Suns in 4 sets, 25-23, 16-25, 18-25, 12-25, at the Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix held yesterday, November 20, 2013 at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig.

Just like what happened in their Liga debut against TMS-Army, the Raiders had another break down after successfully completing a first frame upset against frontrunner Cagayan.

Up by one in the first set, 18-17, RC Cola capitalized on Joy Benito’s service error and Jen Reyes’ shaky floor defense as they scored 3 straight points, 21-17.

With a crossing violation called on Cagayan’s import Wanida Kotruang and a joust against Pau Soriano won by Zharmaine Velez, a 5-0 run was completed by the Raiders extending the lead to 6, 23-17.

Kotruang stopped the bleeding for Cagayan Valley with a down the line kill but their celebration was immediately put to a halt as RC Cola’s Zhang Minghua brought her team to set point, 24-18, via her own version of a kill.

With a tough mountain to climb and a seemingly insurmountable lead to surpass, the Lady Rising Suns created a 5-0 run of its own which started with a double contact called on the Raiders’ setter, Ren Agero.

After two service aces from Kotruang and back-to-back attacks from Wenneth Eulalio and Patcharee Saengmuang, Cagayan was threatening to force a deuce but Minghua said enough is enough as she finally won the first canto for the ladies in blue with a cross court hit.

Zhang Minghua had a monster performance after firing off 24 points from 18 spikes, 3 service aces and 3 blocks while co-import Sontaya Kaewbundit provided the much-needed support with 14.

A sign of good things to come

After losing the closely contested first set, Cagayan head coach Ernesto “Nes” Pamilar was more confident than worried regarding his wards’ performance for the rest of the match.

According to the former FEU women’s volleyball team head coach, his girls’ hustle towards the end of the first frame was a sign that they were really in it to win it.

“Sa first set, di biro yung limang puntos na hinabol nila,” said Pamilar. “Kaya ako, kumpiyansa ako dun pa lang na maliban sa kundisyon sila, eh lalaban talaga.”

Proving Pamilar’s theory, the girls in maroon and white showed more power and grit by winning the succeeding sets in dominating fashion and even having a humongous 14-point lead in the 4th.

For coach Nes, the issue with regard to setter April Jose’s gelling with her attackers is starting to be solved by the team’s constant togetherness through their daily training at the Arena in San Juan.

In fact, the night before their game against RC Cola, the Lady Rising Suns had a tuneup match against UAAP stalwart National University to gauge where they stand regarding their setting woes.

“Hindi na sapat yung drills lang na training eh.” quipped Pamilar.

“Kailangan na ng mga tuneup laban sa malalakas na team kung ayaw namin mapag-iwanan,” he added. “Kita mo naman ang resulta, unti-unti nagko-konek na si April sa attackers.”

With a successful comeback after a sorry loss against TMS-Army last week, Pamilar anticipates a tougher assignment next Wednesday, November 27, 2013, as they are set to face Cignal, who is currently with a 1-1 win-loss card.

“Importante na bawat laban dito dahil single round-robin lang ito.” he reiterates. 

“More tuneup games pa at ayusin yung defense pattern sa likod, lalarga na itong Cagayan.”

Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand-native Wanida Kotruang top-scored with 23 points off of 17 attacks, 3 blocks and 3 service aces while Aiza Maizo and Patcharee Saengmuang contributed 13 and 12, respectively, for Cagayan.

 

Photo courtesy of PH Super Liga FB Page

 

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Maru Banaticla’s graceful exit

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Right after UST failed to make it to the Final 4 of the UAAP women’s volleyball last season 75, I was already hell-bent on finding out whether or not Maruja Banaticla will use her fifth and final year as a Golden Tigress.

Unfortunately, just like the rest of y’all, I was unsuccessful in getting a solid decision from her for several months.

The responses I get from her would vary from “Di pa ako sure, Ma.” to “Pinag-iisipan ko pa po.”

There I was, clueless and impatiently waiting for an answer as if it’s an acceptance letter coming from a prestigious university I took an entrance exam in.

To my delight, last October 23, 2013, the day before my birthday, I got a tweet from her that says:

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There was no better birthday gift than this. A confirmation from Maru herself that she will be donning her black-gold-white jersey one last time.

After losing a lot of weight and gaining her old form back during the off-season, I was positive that she could lead UST back to the Final 4 where it truly belongs.

And then November 7, 2013 happened.

On my way to the Philippine Super Liga launch at URBN Bar and Kitchen, I received a couple of text messages asking why did Maru decide not to play for UST anymore.

Needless to say, I was shocked.

I didn’t want to believe it. I was in denial, I guess.

So, I came to the PSL launch as planned and thought to myself “I’ll just talk to her tomorrow.”

Surprise!

I didn’t have to.

She was there.

With the team (PLDT) she is supposedly playing for after deciding to “quit” her collegiate career.

There it was.

The final answer that broke thousands of hearts.

We hugged. A little hug that meant so many things.

And this is what she has to say:

“Ma, I promise maglalaro talaga ako.”

“Yung pagsali ko sa V-league/Smart, ipinagpaalam ko yun kay coach Odjie at kay Father, at pumayag sila.”

At this point, she was already in tears.

“Araw-araw, gumigising ako ng maaga para mag-jog kasi nagpapa-payat ako.”

“Nagpapa-kundisyon kasi pinaghahandaan ko din yung UAAP.”

So, okay. I don’t get it. She wants to play but she will not?

“Nagulat na lang po ako. Tinanong ako ni Kuya Kevin Ferrer (UST-MBT) ng ‘O? Bakit di ka naka-line-up?'”

“Clueless ako, Ma. Natuliro ako.”

Inconsolable, she continues and says:

“Pagbalik namin dito galing Bacolod after ng UniGames, kinabukasan I was there sa training.”

“Determined talaga ako na maglalaro ako. Kaya nung nalaman ko yun, nagpatulong ako kay Papa para malaman ano nangyari.”

Little by little, I was starting to connect the dots and understand her side of the story.

“Pumunta kami ng UST at may nagsabi nga sa amin na, oo. Hindi nga daw ako ila-line-up ni coach.”

“Ang sakit, Ma.”

She didn’t need to say it. The pain was written all over her face.

“Mahal na mahal ko kasi ang UST eh.”

“Gusto ko pa lumaro eh. Gustong gusto ko pa. Alam mo yan!”

Yes. I know for a fact that she badly wanted to make up for her measly output last season and help the team get back on its feet.

She seemed really heartbroken to the point that her PLDT teammate, Sher Peñano, handed her tissues to wipe away the tears that’s starting to ruin her “patented” blush-on and eyeliner.

“Kaso sabi ni Papa wag na. Hayaan na kung anong desisyon niya.”

“Tama na daw yung sakit. Ayaw niya ng makita na nagkaka-ganito ako.”

*insert more tears from both Maru and me here*

“Salamat kay Papa.”

“Sabay kaming pumasok sa UST nung bata pa ako at dinala niya ako dito.”

“Sabay din kaming lumabas at nakapag-paalam sa management ng maayos.”

Regardless of the heartbreak, she still has nothing but good words for her alma mater.

“My loyalty will forever be with UST.”

“Proud ako na Tomasino ako.”

Her voice cracked as pain evidently welled up again from within.

“Proud ako na pinili nila ako na maging part ng team at proud ako na sila din ang pinili ko nung pag graduate ko ng high school.”

The party was starting to wind down and her teammates were already telling her that they need to go elsewhere and eat.

To close it, I just asked for a message for all the people who supported her throughout her years as a student-athlete.

Weeping, she says:

“Ayoko ng goodbye-goodbye.”

“Makikita pa din nila ako. Maglalaro pa din ako.”

“Ahhm, eto na lang..”

“Go USTe!!!!!!!”

And that is how you make an exit.

Continue to be fierce, fun and fabulous, Maru! We will always be here to support you. Thank you for being classy. Thank you for playing for our beloved team, UST.

Maraming, maraming salamat sa pagpapasaya mo sa amin sa di mabilang na laro kung saan binigay mo ang buong puso mo.

Saludo! And this time, it is “One FROM UST!!!”

Photo courtesy of Sir Joey Villaluz

TMS-Army hands Cagayan first Super Liga Grand Prix loss

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MANILA, Philippines — The Lady Rising Suns failed to duplicate their Shakey’s V-league tournament sweep after yielding to the Lady Troopers in 4 sets, 19-25, 25-14, 25-13, 25-17, at the Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix held at the Arena in San Juan, Friday, November 15, 2013.

Capitalizing on the multiple errors committed by Philippine Army, the girls in Maroon were poised to get win number 2 as they showed no mercy, bombarding their opponents with their offensive prowess and commanding a big lead in the first set, 19-10.

Not to go down without a fight, Lady Trooper Michelle Carolino rallied her teammates via back-to-back spikes which brought them closer at 19-12. Cagayan Valley, though, proved to be too strong after Aiza Maizo, Jeng Kotruang and Wenneth Eulalio teamed up and unleashed hits from all angles that eventually won them the first frame.

In an interview with Army head coach Rico De Guzman after the match, he relayed that every aspect of the plays they trained for were in check in the first canto except their offense.

“Okay ang receive, okay ang set,” he said. “Nagka-problema lang kami sa atake.”

“Maaga pa lang, panay out na ang palo kaya nagka-patong patong na at nagsunod-sunod ang errors.”

But De Guzman was quick to make his adjustments as it was evidently a revitalized Army squad who showed up in the succeeding sets.

The Lady Troopers never looked back as they took the driver’s seat for the rest of the game and not once relinquished their lead.

“Sabi ko lang sa kanila, wag manggigil at wag madaliin ang opensa,” quipped De Guzman. “Yun lang talaga kulang eh.”

“Kaya nung nagawa nila, nagtuloy-tuloy na.”

Huge weight off their shoulders

Being the heavy favorites to win the tournament after being declared victors in a tournament prior to the Grand Prix, the Lady Rising Suns are suddenly in an unfamiliar territory after being outclassed by arch-rival Philippine Army.

After losing to the Lady Troopers in the semi-finals of Philippine Super Liga Invitational last summer, Cagayan successfully regrouped and exacted revenge against their tormentors by defeating Army twice in the eliminations and eventually copping the championship in the Shakey’s V-league Season 10 Open Conference.

Though a little disappointed with his wards’ performance, Cagayan head coach Ernesto “Nes” Pamilar welcomes the loss with arms wide open.

“Ang laking bawas sa pressure sa mga bata!”

“Ang daming humihiling na sweep ulit,” he said. “Ang taas ng expectations after ng V-league.”

Not one to downplay their measly output, Pamilar pointed out that most of his players had an off day in yesterday’s match.

“Off si Aiza at off din si April (Jose),” he added. “Dahil dun, nag-suffer ang depensa namin sa net at sa likod.”

Pamilar frankly stated that Army’s open spikers had a field day in using the blocking, or lack thereof, of his new setter April Jose.

“Kita mo naman, bawat palo pinadadaan kay April,” said the head coach. “Ang masama pa nun, mali yung posisyon ni Aiza sa likod kaya walang coverage.”

“Naloko na!”

Despite a relatively bad day, former UST Tigress Aiza Maizo still provided a 13-point output after uncorking 11 kills and 2 blocks for Cagayan while Thai imports Jeng Kotruang and Patcharee Saengmuang chipped in 13 and 11, respectively. 

Thai import and wing hitter Luangtonglang Wanitchaya indeed had a field day as she led Army with 23 markers off from 20 attacks, 2 blocks and 1 service ace with Mary Jean Balse and Jacq Alarca contributing identical 11 points apiece.

Both teams will face their next assignment on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig as Army duels powerhouse PLDT Speed Boosters at 2 p.m. while Cagayan tries to finally grab their 2nd win against newcomer RC Cola Raiders at 4 p.m.

Cagayan wins first game of the PH Super Liga Grand Prix

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MANILA-PHILIPPINES — Cagayan Lady Rising Suns easily scored their first win after defeating Petron Lady Blazers in straight sets at the Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix held at San Juan Arena, Sunday, November 10, 2013.

The two teams, who finished 4th and 3rd place, respectively, at the Super Liga Invitational last summer, picked up where they left off as they bannered marquee names from the local volleyball scene in the season opener with Cagayan emerging victorious, 25-20, 25-14, 25-22.

Petron’s head coach Vilet Ponce de Leon concludes their lack of time to practice and prepare did them in on their first match of the conference.

“We just had one week to prepare,” said de Leon. “Though daily ang training, nagsimula lang ang practice namin when the imports flew in to Manila.”

De Leon, who is also an assistant coach of the UST women’s volleyball team, said that her team needs to work on their communication inside the court to break into the win column.

“Pati imports namin nagpapakiramdaman pa,” she adds. “Never pa din kasi sila naglaro together kahit na they’re both from Japan.”

The Lady Blazers tried to extend the game to a 4th set by making a 6-0 run at the 3rd frame to keep the score close at 23-22 but eventually shot themselves in the feet with an attack error from Gervacio and a reception error which resulted to a regalo and a win for Cagayan.

Dzi Gervacio top-scored for Petron in her Super Liga debut with 9 markers from 6 attacks and 3 blocks followed by Shinako Tanaka and Micmic Laborte with 6 and 5, respectively.

The start of a winning tradition?

After completing a historic 16-0 sweep at the Shakey’s V-league Open Conference, the Cagayan Lady Rising Suns extended their winning streak as they tuck another win under their belt on day one of the Grand Prix.

Though satisfied with his wards’ performance, head coach Nes Pamilar tried to play it down by saying there are still a lot of things the team needs to improve on.

“Maganda naman ang nilaro ng mga bata,” said Pamilar. ” Pero madami din kailangan i-improve.”

“Una na diyan, medyo mabagal ang plays namin kanina,” he adds. “At pangalawa, kahit ang ganda ng receive, di ako kumbinsido sa blocking.”

Cagayan, who has TMS-Army as its next assignment, has its plate full as they will be battling a team with an intact lineup and 2 imports to boot.

According to Pamilar, the schedule ahead is tough which is why they need to work on the squad’s chemistry hard and fast.

“Bago ang setter namin eh,” he quipped. “Pero tiwala ako na ilang games pa, magkaka-amuyan na din si April (Jose) at yung spikers niya.”

“Pagpatuloy lang nila ang magandang floor defense at ayusin ang blocking, magandang laban ang mapapanood ng tao sa Biyernes,” said Pamilar, talking about the Cagayan-Army match happening on November 15, 2013 at the Arena in San Juan.

Player of the game Pau Soriano fired off 11 points from 9 attacks and 2 blocks while Thai import Wanida Kotruang and ex-Lady Blazer Aiza Maizo chipped in 12 and 11 respectively.

Photo courtesy of DJ Bianca Frost

Leuseht Dawis skips UAAP 76, joins Cagayan for PH Super Liga

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MANILA, Philippines — In a surprising turn of events, Lady Warriors team captain Leuseht Dawis confirms that she will not be playing her final playing year for UE this coming UAAP volleyball season 76. At least not yet.

After showing tremendous improvement during the off-season, people expected Dawis to lead UE’s campaign to finally make it back to the Final 4 after failing to do so in the last 6 years.

According to Leuseht, the management has bigger plans for her and the rest of the squad.

“Hindi naman po totally hindi na maglalaro,” she explains. “I will skip this season, then babalik next year for season 77.”

“UE po kasi ang host next year kaya they want us to properly represent the school by having a strong lineup.”

She adds that she was informed of the decision to skip season 76 yesterday and that she agrees with the management’s call.

“I found out yesterday po,” said Dawis. “And it makes sense naman po kaya um-agree na din ako.”

Back with Cagayan

With this development, Dawis is now expected to join Cagayan Valley Lady Rising Suns in the club league Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix which kicks off today at the San Juan Arena at 1p.m.

Cagayan’s head coach Nes Pamilar said yesterday that once Dawis obtains a clearance to play from UE, she will definitely be added in the roster for the Rising Suns.

“Gusto natin na malinaw lahat,” said Pamilar. “So pag nai-abot niya sa akin ang clearance from UE, agad-agad idadagdag natin siya sa lineup.”

Dawis sees no problem with this requirement from Pamilar.

“Sa Monday po asikasuhin ko na.”

“Sayang din po kasi yung chance na magtuloy-tuloy yung improvement,” adds Dawis. “Ang dami ko pong natutunan off-season at madami pa pong kailangan matutunan for UAAP next year.”

“More than anything, I’m excited to be better po para makatulong pong ma-i-angat ang ranking ng UE next year.”

Other than Dawis, Lady Warrior Shiesa Nebrida will also not be seeing volleyball action with UE come December after deciding to forgo her remaining playing years with the team.

Photos courtesy of Sir Joey Villaluz