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Mapúa WVT reigns champions, MVT clinches bronze in 1st PUVL

Article by: Maurine Claire F. Kim and Kristin Clarisse H. Mateo
Graphics by: Andreah Faye G. Lapinid

The Mapúa University (MU) volleyball teams bagged podium finishes in the 1st Philippine University Volleyball League (PUVL) as both the Men’s Volleyball Team (MVT) and Women’s Volleyball Team (WVT) dominated the tournament that lasted from December 12 to January 27 and was held at different campuses.
The Mapúa Lady Cardinals finished first overall while the MVT settled for third place among nine teams. The Mapúans also went home with most of the major awards of the tourney including Most Valuable Player for Alyanna Nicole Ong, Best Opposite Hitter for Gregchelle Grace Cabadin, and Best Opposite Hitter for John Benedict San Andres. After winning the championship title, the Best Coach award was given to WVT Head Coach Clarence Esteban.

Aside from Mapúa University, the first PUVL consisted of Men’s and Women’s volleyball teams from seven other participating schools, University of Perpetual Help System DALTA (UPHSD), Technological University of the Philippines (TUP), Bataan Peninsula State University, Philippine Christian University, Asian Institute for Maritime Studies, Immaculada Conception College (ICC), and New Era University. The National University (NU) MVT also participated in the league.

Road of Trials

The UPHSD Altas rivaled the MU MVT in the competition as they were the only teams that were part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and often tied in ranking. However, the Intramuros-based squad faced another powerhouse team from the University Athletic Association of the Philippines, the NU Bulldogs MVT, who were champions in their respective collegiate league.

Still, the Cardinals were among the teams who dominated in the elimination round with a team standing of 6-2. MVT Team Captain Aizran Zaniel  Florendo attributed this to their intensive training going into the pre-season league. “Our coaches prepared our bodies to handle every circumstance that may arise in the court. We worked out twice a day, lifting weights in the morning and working on ball and court drills in the afternoon,” he stated.

“To further hone our court motions, we played a ton of tune-up matches against professional and commercial league teams,” the MVT Team Captain added.

The team was matched against the UPHSD Altas for their first game in the semifinals on January 25 at the UPHSD Las Piñas Campus Gymnasium.

Before the Mapúa volleyers could adjust to the pace of the game, the Altas were able to snowball their early lead, swiftly ending the first set, 10-25. The MVT hoped to regain composure in the second set, but the team continued to collapse under the weight of the Altas’ offense, 14-25. Efforts from OH San Andres allowed the Cards to successfully land their attacks; however, the opposing team was able to answer more by seeing holes in the defenses. As the game progressed, the MVT began to respond better. In the third leg, both teams stood on equal footing as MU’s defense improved. The Cardinals started the set with a deny leading to the fumbled opponents executing an attack error. Although MVT responded with blocks and digs, they ended the set and the game with a loss, 19-25.

Despite losing in their first semis match, the Mapúa MVT bounced back during  the battle for third in the Men’s Division that was held on January 25 at the same venue. Hungry for a podium finish, the Mapúa MVT went against the TUP Grey Hawks and swept the opponents in straight sets, 25-23, 25-20, 25-17.

The Ultimate Boon

Last January 25, the Mapúa Lady Cards forced a win against their opponents, the ICC Blue Hawks, 25-19, 25-11, 21-25, 25-20, booking a ticket to a do-or-die game in the finals against NCAA rivals, the UPHSD Lady Altas.

Entering the finals game day of the Women’s Division last January 27, the Las Piñas-based team remained undefeated throughout the 12-week tournament while the Mapúa Lady Cardinals had a run of 6-1 in the elimination round, only bowing to the white and maroon jerseys. Having a strong home-court advantage, the Lady Altas won the first two sets, 13-25 and 19-25.

Then grappling at straws, the ladies from Intramuros slowly tousled the opponents’ defense and found a way to land their attacks with the help of Middle Blocker Therese Manalo. They were resistant to give in to a sweep and survived the third set with a service ace from Open Spiker Nadine Berces, 25-23.

“Hindi pa tapos, may isang set pa tayo. Tayo naman.” According to MU WVT Team Captain Gwen Espiritu, these words from their coach were the catalyst to the team surviving the match. “Na-motivate po lahat. Kaya nung third set para po kaming nag-reset. Back to zero talaga then start lang ulit,” she added.

The Mapúa volleyers won the fourth set by a hair, 25-22, extending the game to five sets. The points in the set were tied seven times as both teams struggled to gain a comfortable lead. Seemingly having laid all her cards, Setter Trixie Gojol executed an unexpected drop ball to end the long rally and win the set.

The stamina battle that followed was familiar territory for the Lady Cardinals as they were known as the Queens of Five-Setters in NCAA Season 97 with a winning streak in five-set thrillers even in the PUVL. As the exhaustion crept in for the Lady Altas in the last set, the home team took advantage of their opponents’ mishaps. The Lady Cardinals were first to reach 15 points to the Lady Altas’ 13, closing the match in their favor and marking a come-from-behind victory.

“When we got the last point, I didn't know what to feel. I am really proud of our team and what we have accomplished. I know that this is just the start for us, and we still have a long way to go,” MVP and Middle Blocker Ong shared.

The Lady Cards’ first-place win granted them the privilege to be the country’s representatives for an international tournament in Bali, Indonesia. More details are yet to be disclosed by the league.

Hopeful Masters of Two Worlds

While the Lady Cards had both the NCAA 97 Women’s Volleyball and Shakey’s Super League, the PUVL was the first tournament the MVT competed in as a team since the onslaught of the pandemic.

Now with pre-season momentum, the Mapúa volleyball teams approach the upcoming NCAA 98 volleyball season with a revitalized outlook. “Our sole focus heading into the season was to provide every game our absolute best effort and to give the squad all we needed to succeed as a whole — no one was left behind,” MU MVT Team Captain Florendo stated.

“As a very young team, we still have a long way to go,” Florendo admitted. For both teams, a majority of the players in the NCAA lineup are rookies. Because of this, the goal going into this year’s NCAA tournament is to learn how to operate as a solid unit against veteran teams in the league.

MU WVT Team Captain Espiritu declared the team’s ambition to reach the Final Four this upcoming season as their recent NCAA journey was cut short as they settled for fifth place with a 5-4 record. “Expect that we will work harder for our school and for all the people who are supporting us this coming season. Kasi hindi lang kami naglalaro para sa mga sarili namin, kundi para rin sa lahat ng sumusuporta sa amin,” she assured.

The Mapúa MVT has won 10 NCAA championships, the last of which was during NCAA Season 77 in 2002. Meanwhile, the MU WVT is still looking for its first NCAA championship title.

The NCAA Season 98 will kick off today, February 18, Saturday, at 8:00 AM, at the San Andres Complex in Manila. The home teams will strive to sink the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates on February 21, Tuesday, at the same venue. The Mapúa MVT will start their NCAA Season 98 journey at 9:00 AM while the Lady Cards will face their opponents at 12:00 NN. The games will be streamed live on the social media pages of NCAA Philippines and GMA Sports PH.
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