Best of 2015: My picks for Best Filipino, international volleyball players and teams

So I’ve decided to do something different in this post. Instead of the usual gender separation, I will write my article based on significance this year. Take note that significance is different from achievements so this might not be a list you want to see if you’re a results/championship count/award count kind of guy/girl. But more or less, my list is kind of a mix of both.

2015 has been a very good for volleyball; both locally and in the international scene. In the international scene, we saw a lot of teams rise and a lot of underdog stories. We witnessed a lot of unpredictable things but we’ll talk about that in a bit. As for the local scene, I can maybe say that 2015 is the start of a golden era for Philippine Volleyball. We finally got to see our national teams play in major tournaments this year and we saw a lot of monster newbies and players who improved their game.

So just to have an overview, this blog segment will go like this:
Top 10 promising international players
Top 10 promising local players
Top 10 international players
Top 10 local players
Top 10 international teams
Top 10 local teams

Have fun reading!

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SWOT Analysis of UAAP Season 77 Women’s Volleyball

So we’re done with the 2nd round. Below are my SWOT analyses for every team in the 1st round of UAAP Women’s Volleyball. Enjoy!

UE (8th, 0-7)

STRENGTHS:
Coach and to be fair, their blocking really improved and in a way, their floor defense
WEAKNESSES:
Winning attitude, No leader, No offense, Setting
OPPORTUNITIES:
To be frank, they are out of the competition. I hope they will use this 2nd round to grow, to learn from opponents and to be better for next year. Likewise, the off-season should be a good time for them to get experience, get their selves exposed and to recruit better.
THREATS:
– None

UST (7th, 2-5)

STRENGTHS:
Blocking has always been the strength of Odjie Mamon’s system. Offense is loaded. You have Lastimosa, Rondina, Laure, Tunay, Meneses, De Leon.
WEAKNESSES:
Leadership, In-game Mentality, Teamwork, Consistency. Setting sometimes and floor defense.
OPPORTUNITIES:
Use their new found confidence. They still have a chance to make it to the Final Four, they just have to win like 5/7 of their 2nd round games to make it. Based on their 2nd round games, they can match up well, they just can’t match up well.
THREATS:
Of course, there are like 4 other teams in search of a Final Four berth so they need to work double time if they really want to make it. Peaking teams. Ateneo and La Salle.

FEU (6th, 3-4)

STRENGTHS:
Floor defense and offense. They have a lot of good attackers too; Basas, Pons, Palma, Casugod, Simborio.
WEAKNESSES:
Consistency, Leadership and In-game mentality. Yeah, consistency. They won against NU, had a close game with La Salle but then they lost to UST in 4 and to Adamson in 3.
OPPORTUNITIES:
Use their floor defense and blocking. Though they are at 6th, they are at par with 3 other teams so they just need to beat the other teams tied with them for them to enter the Final Four.
THREATS:
Peaking teams. If they won’t pick up their game and be consistent, it’s gonna be hard for them to catch up. Ateneo and La Salle.

Adamson (5th, 3-4)

STRENGTHS:
Strong start. Strong wingers (Paat, Villanueva and Galanza). Of course, their FLOOR DEFENSE has always been their strength. Resiliency.
WEAKNESSES:
Like the two teams mentioned above, consistency. They had good games before the year ended but when 2015 came in, they lost back to back. I don’t know if they are still in vacation mode but they need to start winning again.
OPPORTUNITIES:
Lucky for them, they are 3-4 and they are tied with 2 other teams so they can still catch up. They have good wingers, so they can use the three to dominate.
THREATS:
Peaking teams and since 5 of them are still in search of a Final Four berth, they need to win most, if not all of their games. Ateneo and La Salle.

UP (4th, 3-4)

STRENGTHS:
Good coach, Low-fast offense, floor defense, blocking, setting. Almost everything really. Offense is loaded as well in Angeli Araneta, Nicole Tiamzon, Yen Ilustre and Vina Alinas.
WEAKNESSES:
Experience. They have it all, just the end game composure of all the players.
OPPORTUNITIES:
If they can make it close with the strong teams, who knows, in the 2nd round they can win over them. Let’s see. They need to ride on with momentum and beat the other teams.
THREATS:
Kathy Bersola’s injury. Although they are at #4, it’s not a safe ranking since like I said, there are 5 teams chasing the Final Four berths so they need to double their effort in the 2nd round. Ateneo and La Salle.

NU (3rd, 4-3)

STRENGTHS:
Based on their first two games and the last two games, floor defense. Coach Roger Gorayeb and Jaja Santiago. They have a good coach and a milking cow. Aside from Jaja Santiago, they still have a Myla Pablo and promising new entries in the starting six.
WEAKNESSES:
Setting. Blocking is shaky. Let’s face it, they don’t have as much offense as compared to the other teams.
OPPORTUNITIES:
They’re solo 3rd and with a new system (which has been working so far), they can improve their win-loss record and maybe even beat one of the top two teams. Let’s see.
THREATS:
Peaking teams. Teams who almost defeated them in the 1st round. Teams who know how Coach Roger works his magic. Ateneo and La Salle.

La Salle (2nd, 6-1)

STRENGTHS:
Ara Galang, Ara Galang and Ara Galang. Coach Ramil. Blocking has always been their strength but serving really improved big time. Good bench players.
WEAKNESSES:
In a way, floor defense and a Marano-like leader. But they’re not as bad as compared to other teams. Predictable offense at times. Setter likes going to the wings.
OPPORTUNITIES:
They can use this 2nd round to improve their weaknesses and they can involve more players in their offense
THREATS:
Pressure to avenge, Pressure to stop a possible winning streak, Peaking teams or teams who are hungry for a Final Four berth. Ateneo.

Ateneo (1st, 7-0)

STRENGTHS:
Almost every skill. Alyssa Valdez. Denden Lazaro. Kiwi Ahomiro, Jia Morado. Bea De Leon. Ella De Jesus. Jho Maraguinot and Mich Morente. Happy, Unity and Heart Strong attitude.
WEAKNESSES:
Too much errors every game. Opposite position not as solid although not so much as a weakness. Blocking although not so much too based on their defensive patterns.
OPPORTUNITIES:
Lessen their errors, raise the level of play in the 2nd round
THREATS:
Pressure to maintain their winning streak. Peaking teams. La Salle.

Let’s hope the 2nd round will be even more exciting! Good Luck to all teams!

Best of 2014: My picks for Best Filipino Volleyball Players and Moments

MY TOP MEN’S VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS FOR 2014

1. Ran Abdilla (PLDT) – Amazing talent. Prolly the best men’s player in the country.

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2. Marck Espejo (Ateneo) – Rookie-MVP and still rockin it in 77. Great talent despite the young age.

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3. Howard Mojica (EAC/Cignal) – Amazing, Smart and Powerful

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4. Mark Alfafara (UST) – Prolific Scorer and never say die attitude

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5. Michael Sudaria (Adamson) – Small but terrible

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6. Ish Polvorosa (Ateneo) – Talented setter. Smart, fast and a great leader.

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7. JP Pareja (Ateneo) – Great leadership aside from his commendable talent in floor defense

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8. Peter Torres (NU) – Deadly running attack and has very good blocking

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9. Raymark Woo (La Salle) – Silent Assasin

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10. Vince Mangulabnan (NU) – Great setter

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11. Myco Antonio (Systema) – One of the most powerful lefties in the country

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12. Rence Melgar (Adamson) – Has great floor defense and a libero-leader too

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Best of 2014: My picks for Best International Volleyball Players and Moments

MY TOP MEN’S VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS FOR 2014 

1. Taylor Sander (USA/BYU) – Rookie-MVP in an international scene. Amazing leap and excellent volleyball IQ.

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2. Marius Wlazly (Poland) – Led the country for a world championship. Beat that.

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3. Ivan Zaytsev (Italy) – Italy’s own workhorse. Can score anywhere.

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4. Wallace De Souza (Brazil) – Still good despite the injury (also biased cause he’s my favorite)

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5. Ricardo Lucarelli (Brazil) – Most improved player

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6. Earvin Ngapeth (France) – Breakout year, definitely

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7. Seyed Mousavi (Iran) – 48 blocks in a world tournament. Beat that.

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8. Matthew Anderson (USA) – Still an amazing player no matter what and the heart and soul of USA

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9. Jenia Grebennikov (France) – Amazing libero! Brought the house down in the World championship!

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10. Mir Saeid Marouflakrani (Iran) – Amazing setter! Probably the best in the world right now.

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Best of 2014 TV Series Characters, Villains, Deaths and Moments

HEROES/PROTAGONISTS – 2014

Heroes

1. Annalise Keating of How to Get Away with Murder (ABC)
2. Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones (HBO)
3. Olivia Pope of Scandal (ABC)
4. Norman Bates of Bates Motel (A&E)
5. Barry Allen of The Flash (The CW)
6. Jane Villanueva of Jane The Virgin (The CW)
7. Scott Mccall of Teen Wolf (MTV)
8. Oliver Queen of Arrow (The CW)
9. Phil Coulson of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
10. Emily Thorne of Revenge (ABC)
11. James Gordon of Gotham (FOX)
12. Callie Jacob of The Fosters (ABC Family)
13. Henry Morgan of Forever (ABC)
14. Walter O’Brien of Scorpion (CBS)

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First Impressions about this year’s UAAP teams

UE

UE seems disorganized but they are definitely playing better compared last year. They have better floor defense and blocking. Must have been jitters but they should avoid committing errors. Wasn’t able to feel Adorador and Alcayde unlike last year. Talent is there, it’s just a matter of communication and teamwork. X-Factors this weekend: Dawis and Baliton

UP

Still rebuilding but they really have a lot of potential. They were really scrappy but offense is lacking. Tiamzon needed support a while ago and others failed to deliver. Setting and floor defense improved. Hopefully, Bersola will have a better game and Araneta will play in the next one. Future looks bright for them. They have a chance of upsetting one of the top teams but let’s see. X-Factors this weekend: Tiamzon and Estranero

UST

Better movement. Blocking has improved a lot. They have better offensive options now especially with the entry of Rondina and Pacres. Floor defense is decent too. Setting is definitely better this year. I think UST has this sort of completeness. If they will play as a team in the coming games, who knows, they might dominate. X-Factors this weekend: Lastimosa and Laure

FEU

Great blocking and floor defense! Impressed at the scrappiness of this team. They are also complete in terms of hitting. Only problem this year is their setter. But if Papa manages to be more creative and connect more with her players, FEU can win a lot of games. Love the improvement of Casugod, Palma and Pons! I think they have a strong chance of making the Final Four. X-Factors this weekend: Palma and Casugod

AdU

Totally underestimated this team. They still have a fighting chance but they are not as complete as the past years. Offense revolves around Villanueva, Paat and Galanza. Floor defense is still there and blocking improved. They need to involve middles in terms of scoring. Shaky setting also which really made them predictable. X-Factors this weekend: Paat and Galanza

NU

Improved a lot this year. Better floor defense. Everyone’s really diving for the ball. Jaja Santiago is the new leader and she didn’t fail to deliver. Mandapat and Pablo are good supports. General is the most impressive. If they will play better and not be demoralized when they are down, I think they will still beat a lot of teams. They were just unfortunate since they had to face a really strong team in the opening game. X-Factors this weekend: Santiago and General

La Salle

I was surprised at first because La Salle is not as active in the court as before. Blocking is definitely there but floor defense isn’t. Galang needs more support aside from Cruz. Setting is a little slow but can be improved if they receive better. Middles were not utilized so I can’t say if Reyes or Dy improved or not. Cheng improved a lot and will be a good offensive option this season. Let’s see in the coming games how La Salle will play. X-Factors this weekend: Galang and Cruz

Ateneo

Played like a well-oiled machine this weekend. Everyone contributed. Floor defense and mean serving are still there, blocking improved a bit and they have more options now. Middles were not utilized much but setting was super commendable. Surprised with their improvement in Vertical leap and quickness. Amazing combination plays and movement in the court. Teamwork and happy playing were evident. There were less errors too unlike last year or in the past offseason games. If they will continue to play this way, they will dominate. X-Factors this weekend: Valdez, Morado, De Leon, Lazaro and De Jesus

It’s still the opening. A lot of things will definitely happen. These are just first looks. So don’t worry. 🙂

I totally underestimated Adamson.U

USA vs China Finals Preview (2014 FIVB World Championship)

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Alas, we’re down to the last two who survived a somewhat battle royale-like international volleyball competition. It has been a very good world cup and let’s hope the Finals tomorrow will be a blast.

But before we break down on USA and China, let’s have a run down on the performance of the other teams. Well, actually, It has been a mixed performance for almost all teams. There were surprising teams, emerging teams, dominating teams, bipolar teams and inconsistent teams but the games were really exciting this year. Dominican Republic was the team who shocked almost everyone after beating and challenging a lot of strong teams. Even the likes of Azerbaijan and Croatia had their share of upsets and surprising wins as well (although no one duplicated Chinese Taipei’s run in 2006 Haha). If there were teams who really did well, there were also teams who kind of disappointed a lot of fans (Sorry Japan, Russia, Serbia, Thailand and Turkey).  Thailand sent their Team B in this tournament, which was kind of disappointing and somewhat insulting to FIVB since they labeled this one as the organization’s most prestigious tournaments. I don’t know why Thailand prioritized Asian Games more, but I was disappointed cause they could’ve won games against strong teams. Japan, Serbia, Turkey and Russia were the inconsistent ones. It was disappointing cause they showed how they were able to match up with the strong teams…but also with the weaker teams. They could’ve made it to the next round if not for their inconsistencies. Russia was the most disappointing because they had Gamova, Kosheleva and Goncharova in one team and they were the defending champions but faulty substitutions and rotations by the coach cost them. Brazil and Italy dominated the whole tournament but failed to win the semis game. Well, these things happen so it wasn’t at all disappointing but it was frustrating since they really had hardcore line-ups and they were really one game away from making it to the Finals. And to be fair to China and USA, both teams did well in the Final Four. China and USA both had roller coaster seasons, although from the beginning, you knew they were somehow gonna win big games (but to be honest, I never really expected a USA vs China Finals Haha)

USA

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USA has always been known as an all around team. Although they commit a lot of errors, their floor and net defense have been the reasons why they won the last few games. The low-fast sets of Alisha Glass have also been big help to the team’s unpredictable offense. Of course, there’s also an added bonus if you have powerful hitters and servers such as Kim Hill, Jordan Larson, Kelly Murphy, Foluke Akinradewo and Christa Harmotto. Aside from these starters, you also have the likes of Nicole Fawcett, Rachel Adams and Kelsey Robinson. The offense of USA is actually as deep as their net and floor defense. Kayla Banwarth has really improved a lot as the team’s libero. She has been receiving and digging well. Just yesterday, she made Brazil’s attacks look like nothing. Christa Harmotto’s presence has also been a big factor for USA especially with her blocking (I mean, man, the girl once scored 12 blocks in one game). A USA championship will really be a big morale booster for the ones in the roster. There were doubts for the ones in the current line-up. Now is the right time to prove them wrong and to make a run for the red, white and blue nation.

Kimberly Hill of USA attacks

Player to watch out: Kim Hill is also emerging as one of USA’s main scorers. She improved her hitting by being more smart compared to the past years. If you would look at the past games, her scores are usually unchecked or undefended by the opponents.

If USA will continue their awesome defense and with unpredictable offense, they might just take this easily. But if they will commit a lot of errors, they will be in a lot of danger against a very young and eager China team.

CHINA

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China has been getting a lot of labels lately. Names like “team of the future”, “new Russia”, “emerging powerhouse” and I agree with all of them. Everyone knew this team had a lot of potential. When you look at their first six, you can easily say that five years from now, they could be dominating all tournaments. Height will be their advantage in the coming years especially since their first six is made up of 6’6, 6’7 and 6’5 players. The only problem with their game is their reception and digging. However, their blocking, serving and hitting are really to watch out for especially if you are into power and precision. The middle blockers Yuan Xinyue and Junjing Yang have lethal running attacks. The wingers Zhu Ting, Hui Ruoqi and Zeng Chunlei have also been explosive for China. Five years from now, this team’s gonna get even deadlier especially with the young roster they have. Imagine, the top scorers in their Final Four game against Italy are just 17 and 18 (Yuan Xinyue and Zhu Ting). China’s got a bright future but tomorrow will be the first step to their impending world dominance in world volleyball.

Italy Valentina Diouf and Italy Raphaela Folie block

Player to watch out: Zhu Ting has been leading the Chinese since Day 1. Her floor defense has improved a lot (in fact, she’s #1 in receiving) and her backrow attacks are now sharper.

In tomorrow’s Finals, they have nothing to lose and they have everything to gain. If they will have good floor defense tomorrow aside from their splendid blocking and hitting, they might just win it. Inexperience will either make or break them.

I just hope tomorrow’s Finals game will be a good one. I won’t mind a three set game as long as it’s exciting (as exciting as the USA vs Brazil semis) and I’d be happy if both teams will push it to the limit. Hoping there won’t be off games for all players so we can all witness a quality Finals match.

Just a reminder, the game is at 8:00 PM in Italy, 2:00 AM in Manila, 11:00 AM in LA, 3:00 PM in Sao Paolo, 2:00 PM in New York and 7:00 PM in London.

ENJOY!