Are you ready for UAAP Season 86 volleyball? We sure are. Here are the key storylines to follow amidst the upcoming excitement!
The UAAP Season 86 volleyball tournaments are now upon us! With the first serve taking place on February 17, Saturday, all eyes will now be on both the women’s and men’s tournaments, and it’s sure to be a high-octane competition.
With the pre-season tournaments done, along with talented returning players and a new set of coaches, all the teams are back for UAAP Season 86 on a fresh slate. Here are five things you should watch out for as the competition takes off.
There have been two major pre-season tournaments that have helped prep many of the women’s UAAP players for Season 86. First was the 2023 Shakey’s Super League Pre-Season Championship which took place in November last year, where the National University Lady Bulldogs reigned supreme and won the gold medal. Trailing behind them were the UST Golden Tigresses and the FEU Lady Tamaraws — another pair of promising teams.
Earlier this year, the 2024 Akari Invitational Cup also took place, where collegiate teams got to compete against professional squads. The Adamson Lady Falcons took this opportunity with everything they had, and went on to beat Premier Volleyball League team Akari in a five-set finale, proving them as yet another squad to watch out for in the upcoming UAAP tournament.
Will any of these teams be able to translate this pre-season success into a UAAP crown?
Under new leadership
To make matters even more exciting, the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament will be welcoming five new coaches this year: Ateneo’s Sergio Veloso, Adamson’s JP Yude, UE’s Jerry Yee, FEU’s Manolo Refugia, and UP’s Oliver Almadro.
Facing other high-caliber talents, UP head coach Oliver Almadro admits that this season will be challenging, saying, “It will be a big challenge, a big mission for us, but it’s somewhat a blessing for everybody in the UP volleyball program…We’re happy, we’re positive for this season.”
Key players to watch
Last season, the rookies truly stepped up, both in the men’s and women’s tournaments. On the women’s side, Angel Canino proved herself to be one of the most important players in the DLSU Lady Spikers’ championship campaign, winning both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards. As she enters her second season this year, the expectations will definitely be high, especially as the squad aims to defend their crown.
On the men’s side, Josh Ybañez is on a mission this season. As a rookie-MVP from last year, the UST standout will be entering his second year hoping to push UST back to the finals. Sharing his expectations, he says, “Same as last season, ‘yung mga ginawa ko last season, ‘yun lang din [for this season].”
Of course, there will also be the seniors who will be looking to make the most out of their final playing year, such as NU’s tandem of Nico Almendras and Joshua Retamar, La Salle’s Noel Kampton and Thea Gagate, Ateneo’s Roma Doromal, Adamson’s Lucille Almonte, and UP’s Louie Gamban.
Going for a 4-peat
This season, the National University Bulldogs have a chance to make UAAP history — to capture a rare four-peat in the men’s volleyball tournament.
“Lagi lang namin ico-continue ‘yung goal namin every year,” NU head coach Dante Alinsunurin shared. This year marks the winning coach’s 13th year with National University, and he will be eager to keep his team on the UAAP throne.
Defending their crown
On the women’s side, the DLSU Lady Spikers are on a similar mission — to win back-to-back titles. But with all the teams eager to get in the way of this, La Salle’s coaching staff wants their team to enter this season on a fresh slate.
“Lagi naming sinasabi sa team na ‘wag tayong makuntento na nag-champion tayo. Tapos na ‘yun. As defending champions, all the teams are after us…Mas mahirap ‘yung magdefend kaysa ikaw ‘yung naghahabol sa champion,” DLSU’s deputy Noel Orcullo revealed.
The players share the same sentiment. As Thea Gagate shared, “‘Doon pa rin yung pressure, but at the same time, we just need to do it one step at a time.”
Images from UAAP Media.