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Cards to rise stronger in NCAA Season 97

Article by: Crismhil S. Anselmo and Alexandra Isabelle G. Delavin
Graphics by: Lea Ysabel Q. Evangelista

With the theme, “Stronger Together, Buo ang Puso,” the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is set to commence its 97th season with select in-person games on March 26, 2022, at La Salle Green Hills, Mandaluyong. Following a two-year layoff from contact sports due to the restrictions brought by the pandemic, basketball and volleyball teams will return to the court to compete for a spot in the finals

Scanning the map of changes

According to Mapúa Cardinals Team Captain  Warren Bonifacio, there will be changes in how the competitions will be carried out for NCAA Season 97. “...this season, isang beses lang namin makakalaban yung ibang school ‘di tulad dati na dalawang beses namin sila makakalaban sa elimination,” he said.

With budget constraints and pandemic restrictions, the basketball and volleyball tournaments will follow a single round-robin for the elimination round instead of the traditional double round-robin. The top two teams to rise above during the elimination round will automatically advance to the semi-finals and gain a twice-to-beat advantage. Meanwhile, the teams who ranked third and fourth will clinch the third spot. The losing team will fight against the winner of the fifth and sixth teams for the last place in the semis.

Afterward, the two teams to rise among the Top 4 will advance to the finals and compete in a best-of-three series.

Bonifacio added that there are ongoing talks on whether audiences will be allowed during games should the pandemic restrictions continue to improve.

Preparing for take-off

Due to the spike in coronavirus cases last January, the launch of Season 97 was delayed, which was initially set last March 5. Quarantine restrictions hindered the travel and training of athletes in Metro Manila; thus, to give ample time for the players to train for the upcoming games, the opening ceremony was moved to late March.

In observance of the pandemic restrictions, Mapúa University (MU) Athletics Director Melchor Divina stated that players must present a negative RT-PCR test or undergo a 14-day quarantine for the unvaccinated athletes and a 7-day quarantine for those vaccinated prior to training. The student-athletes must also adhere to the social distancing protocols and wear masks.

With the basketball tourneys kicking off at the start of this season, the Mapúa Cardinals have undergone bubble training on campus since February 15 this year. Bonifacio shared that health protocols are strictly observed throughout their stay in the MU dorms and their two training sessions per day.

After men’s basketball, the Lady Cardinals are expected to represent the University in the Women’s Volleyball Tournament. Though the team’s bubble training will start after Holy Week in April, Cards Setter Gwen Espiritu shared that their preparations have already begun since the start of the school year. She added that the team trained thrice a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Going back in action

Despite falling short last year, Bonifacio assured the Mapúan community that they will do their best to bring home the crown this season. He also called on his fellow students to show their support for the upcoming games.

Alongside Bonifacio, this year’s official basketball roster headed by Coach Randy Alcantara includes seasoned players Arvin Gamboa, Paolo Jose D. Hernandez, Enrico Joaquin N. Garcia, Adrian Clarence G. Nocum, and Jasper D. Salenga. The team will also be joined by 10 rookies namely, Toby Bryan P. Agustin, Ferdinand J. Asuncion, Carl Brian M. Lacap, Jomer G. Mercado, Jose Miguel P. Milan, Jeric James G. Pido, Ivan Bhenell M. Santos, Jopet G. Soriano, Ryan Isaac N. Sual and team reserve Doynel Rane L. Udal.

When asked about what to expect from the Lady Cardinals this June, Espiritu shared that the pre-pandemic team together with fresh faces are hopeful of claiming this year’s championship. “We've been preparing for two years, so expect that we will be back stronger. This season might be more challenging, but we will work harder to win against other teams,”  she imparted, highlighting how their bond did not waver even during the pandemic.

The official lineup of MU’s volleyball team is yet to be released. As for chess and taekwondo competitions, these will remain online and will be aired in between the tournaments. There will also be no general championship this year due to the limited games.

Meanwhile, NCAA also introduced 13 new representatives from various colleges and universities to bring courtside actions to the fans. This season’s roster of courtside reporters includes second-year Technical Communication student and events host Chloe Hanna Carillo.

A day after the opening ceremony, the Mapúa Cardinals will start their quest to bring home the coveted crown  by battling against the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) Generals on Sunday, 3:00 PM, at La Salle Green Hills.

The NCAA Season 97, hosted by De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, will air every Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to Sundays on GTV, with live streaming on the social media pages of NCAA Philippines and GMA Sports.


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