The long wait is over; UAAP Volleyball kicks off once again! Fans and supporters throughout the country have been longing and waiting to see their favorite players and teams in action.

All teams had been preparing since the get go. Recruitment for volleyball is getting even more intense. Coaches scout players around the country  as early as they can to recruit talents and prospects for their team. Universities now reinvent and strengthen their volleyball program — from conditioning sessions, rigorous trainings to joining tourneys to gain exposure and experience.

I’m not a legit Sports Analyst but I have knowledge of Volleyball since highschool and I play the sport too. Here’s my analysis.

They are ordered from their rankings last season.

1) De La Salle Lady Spikers (14-0)

They are still the team to beat this coming season. The back-to-back champions are gunning for their 3-peat and 8th volleyball championship title. Undeniably, they are the strongest collegiate team in women’s volleyball. A team spearheaded by Coach Ramil de Jesus.

La Salle has still the height advantage over other teams plus the experience they have been gaining throughout the years. They just recently bagged gold at the Sandugo Unigames beating other UAAP teams. I don’t think the departure of the their captain, Cha Cruz will be a big blow for them. Reigning MVP Abigail Maraño along with veterans Michele Gumabao, setter Mika Esperanza and libero Melissa Gohing will surely step-up to lead the Archers this season. This is the last year of eligibility for Gohing and according to some sources Gumabao won’t use her final playing year. The team is also boosted by talented sophomores, Victonara Galang and Mika Reyes. Galang was awarded as the Best Server and Rookie of the Year.  Other reinforcements like, Kim Fajardo and Wensh Tiu will also suit up for the season. Kim Fajardo is a very talented setter who brought UST championship titles along with her highschool teammates Valdez, Banaticla, Hirotsuji and Santiago. She is now the alternate setter for the Archers. On the other hand, Wensh Tiu is a standout from De La Salle Dasmariñas. This is her debut year and also her final year since she served residency.

2) Ateneo Lady Eagles (11-3)

It has been a journey for Coach Roger Gorayeb and the Lady Eagles. He started coaching the AWVT, 2008, along with the entry of the Fab 5. By this time, he knows every detail by heart of how capable his team is. Now that the Fab 5 are on the peak of their collegiate volleyball career, much are expected from them.

It was an epic win by the Ateneo during game one of the finals considering that La Salle has a thrice-to-beat advantage because of sweeping the elimination round. But, the Lady Eagles soared only for second best. In the end, it was just short for them as they were overpowered by the Archers during game two and three. Now, they are ready to bounce back and try to grab that title. This will be the last year of eligibility for the Fab 5. They still have their core starting six with Fille Cainglet, Alyssa Valdez, Dzi Gervacio, Gretchen Ho, A Nacachi and Jem Ferrer along with libero Denise Lazaro. The Lady Eagles has also talented rookies like Palarong Pambansa standouts Marge Tejada and Gizzle Tan. Add to them sophomores Ella de Jesus and Amy Ahomiro to boost up their line-up. Ahomiro is now back as she missed last season due to an ACL injury. Ateneo won their second consecutive title on Shakey’s V-League prevailing over the multi-titled UST Tigresses on a best-of-three series. UST got game one but Ateneo won the next two games. I can say that the team is cohesive enough. With the exposure and experience they gained for the past years,  they have a good shot of getting the crown this year. It’s just a matter of hardwork and making things work for them.

3) UST Golden Tigresses

It was two years ago since the Tiger community waived the banner “Campeone” on the Women’s Volleyball arena. After that Tabaquero comeback, bagging the elusive Gold Season 72 Championship as their 14th, the Golden Tigresses are working their way on getting again to the top. With the lost of veteran setter, Rhea Dimaculangan, who has won many MVP awards and a Best Server and Best Setter award, the team is leaning on the veterans, Maika Ortiz, Judy Caballejo and Maruja Banaticla.

The team also relies on the whole cast including the juniors, Pamela Lastimosa, Midori Hirotsuji and Dancel Dusaran. Add to them the stunning sophomores, Jessey de Leon, Carmela Tunay and Ingrid Reyes. Newly-bred Tigresses will also enter the team to complete the line-up.

Fresh from a back-to-back Beach Volleyball Championship Title, Judy Caballejo and Maruja Banaticla has proved a lot to the volleyball community. It has paved their way from the shadows of Maizo and Tabaquero. Now, as the reliables these two key players need to be consistent and is really expected to carry the team. Some are saying that they are not in sync sometimes. Some games, Maru alone does a good scoring output while sometimes only Judy does. Well, Judy  adjusted to the Utility position last year (filling Miazo’s spot) and did well on other skills most esp. on her solid floor defense. The duo must work together as they are now solid for the Wing Spiker position who will get most of the sets. With Judy’s last eligible playing year, expect her to do her best and give it her all.

Maika Ortiz, last year’s Best Attacker, and another graduating player, has become the ever reliable scorer from the Tigresses. Coach Odjie really transformed her to be a lethal attacker of the team. Her emphatic running spikes really pack a lot of force and power; add to that her quick hits. But still, she has to improve her blocking skills.

Talking about the Tigresses’ playmaker, it is now the time for Loren Lantin to show her wares for Season 75. After three years being with the team, finally she steps at the spotlight as the main setter for UST. Backed up with her is Alexine Cabaños, the setter from DLSZ who is at her 2nd year of eligibility. This fresh tandem will ignite the offense of the Tigresses throughout the season.

4) FEU Lady Tamaraws

The winningest team on the Women’s Volleyball, having 29 championships on their hand, is yet seeking to make their 30th title back to Morayta. The Lady Tamaraws are on their second year of rebuilding program. From being booted out to the Final 4 after 2 seasons, they are finally back last year, finishing 4th.

Coach Nes Pamilar together with Shaq Delos Santos are more focused on continually improving the juniors together with other rookies. Their team captain and last season’s Best Setter, Gyzel Sy will carry the team this coming season. Together with the Best Scorer, Rosemarie Vargas and Best Digger, Christine Agno. Add to the solid six the experienced middle attacker, Wenneth Eulalio, Wing spiker, Toni Basas and Utility, Mayjorie Roxas.

One thing is for sure, this season will be as tighter as it was last season. The very defensive Lady Falcons will now enter the season without Mommy Dulce for the first time. They are now leaded by Coach Sherwin Meneses. Expect the veterans, Pau Soriano, Shiela Pineda and Mayette Zapanta to double their effort to climb back on the Final 4. Meanwhile,  the hosts of Season 75, Lady Bulldogs, will now banner the most awaited comeback player, Denise Santiago, a former Tigress. Her re-entry together with Maricar Nepomuceno and other comebacking players will surely be a force to reckon with this season. I really feel that they really prepared for this season. The Lady Warriors and the Lady Maroons are expected to uplift themselves on the standings and show that they have improved enough this season and be able to manage winning on the arena.