As UST finally broke into the win column with a couple of impressive performances, some movement was bound to happen at the top.
Who made it to this edition of the UAAP Player Rankings? Scroll down and find out.
10. Jamie Lavitoria, Ateneo
She hasn’t topped the digging and receiving department yet but impact-wise, Ateneo’s Jamie Lavitoria deserves to be in the top 10 this week.
In lieu of main libero Gizelle Tan, who has struggled in passing, Lavitoria has stepped up to the plate and delivered the much-needed reception for the defending champions.
After playing in just a couple of games for the Lady Eagles, the California girl has already zoomed to the 3rd spot in the best receivers list.
Her performance will be crucial in Ateneo’s titanic battle against La Salle, who happens to be the best serving team in the league right now.
If Lavitoria can flawlessly send the ball to Morado—or simply put the ball up considering their setter’s mad skills—then a sweep of the 1st round is not too far-fetched.
9. Isa Molde, UP
The heavy minutes given to Isa Molde inside the court will be a big factor if and when she ends up bagging this year’s Rookie of the Year award.
And quite frankly, Molde deserves her spot in UP’s starting group because the girl is both powerful and wise, a combination you see rarely from a freshman.
While fellow rookie Diana Carlos packs more punch, Molde has a wider variation of attacks, sometimes going through the block, dropping the ball or using the old reliable powerful kills, making her the 7th best scorer of the league with 69 points, tying veteran Myla Pablo.
Oh and she can defend well, too. Currently ranked as the 7th best digger, Molde continues to prove she was well worth all the hype.
8. Jema Galanza, Adamson
To be fair to Jema Galanza, she is tallying MVP numbers so far in Season 78.
She is 3rd in scoring, 4th in spiking, 8th in digging and 10th in receiving. When you compare all this to her Season 77 performance, you’d be amazed at how much she has advanced as an all-around player for the Lady Falcons.
The problem, however, lies somewhere only the girls off San Marcelino know.
Adamson has been on a downward spiral after taking its 1st win against UST in the opener. On a 4-game losing streak, Galanza and the rest of the team must make a move to save their 2016 campaign because if they lose more steam, even UE might have a shot at shooting them down.
Skipper Mylene Paat’s good showing in the last two games is a good sign. But imagine the damage Galanza can do if everyone in the team is on point.
It’s not yet too late.
7. Toni Rose Basas, FEU
If there is an award for most improved player and if it will be awarded this week, it should go to Toni Rose Basas.
With a 3-2 record, FEU is on the right track to the team’s goal which, according to its veteran players, is making it all the way to the finals.
And though seniors Bernadeth Pons and Remy Palma have already showcased their lethal form in the Lady Tamaraws’ gruelling 5-set win against UP, Basas still scorched hot with 21 big points and the win for Morayta.
Her tremendous improvement could partially be attributed to the playmaking skills of Gyzelle Sy but give credit to where it is due. Basas worked hard in the off-season, said her head coach Shaq delos Santos.
And it’s paying off! She is now 5th in scoring and 7th in spiking which makes her the first offensive option for FEU.
6. Majoy Baron and Maddie Madayag, La Salle and Ateneo
The showdown between 2 of the fastest rising stars in the UAAP will be an interesting side show in the upcoming Ateneo-La Salle battle on February 27 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Both have a seemingly same path to greatness as they were under the radar in Season 77 and fast forward to 2016, both have become reliable offensive and defensive options for both squads.
Baron has become the most potent source of points for the Taft squad, tallying 61 points to rank 9th in scoring. She is also leading the blocking department by a mile, averaging 1 block per set and she also appears in the best servers at #9.
Not to be outdone, Ateneo’s Maddie Madayag is 4th best blocker so far and she also leads in the service department, averaging 0.81 aces per set.
These 2 will be out to neutralize each other come game time. Who will sink and who will swim will depend on how they will be utilized by their respective setters.
5. Dawn Macandili, La Salle
Every La Salle fan’s main concern coming into Season 78 is the lack of a steady libero which has been the team’s weakness ever since Melissa Gohing’s graduation back in Season 75.
All of that is a thing of the past now as Dawn Macandili remains to be the most impressive defensive ace in the league.
Macandili is leading the best diggers with 2.76 excellent digs per set while also being league-leading in reception with a 26.98% accuracy.
The libero’s A-game on the defensive end is required if the Taft squad plans to tarnish Ateneo’s record and win against its archrival which they last did back in Game 2 of Season 76.
It will be a tall order for Macandili to be the point person for La Salle’s floor defense as the opponents are currently the #1 spiking team in the legue.
If she wakes up on the good side of the bed, a win is within reach for the Lady Spikers.
4. Kim Fajardo, La Salle
Following the footsteps of 2 outstanding team captains in Aby Maraño and Ara Galang is no easy feat. But looking at the way new La Salle skipper Kim Fajardo is handling the pressure, she is out to make a name of her own.
Having the right combination of vocal leadership and leading by example, Fajardo has kept the Lady Spikers in line to grab a hold on the 2nd spot with a 4-1 record.
To date, the Taft squad’s main playmaker is still the best setter in the league with an average of 8.65 sets per frame.
Her success and libero Dawn Macadili’s, however, is highly dependent on each other’s performance. A good first ball would mean better plays. This would come handy if they want to exploit Ateneo’s floor defense on Saturday as the Lady Eagles are 7th in digging as a team so far.
Regardless of the outcome, Fajardo has shown her reliability for La Salle, showcasing her skills not only in setting but also in spiking, blocking and serving where is currently ranked 4th best.
3. Jaja Santiago, NU
On paper, one would be led to think that NU’s Jaja Santiago is playing to her full potential.
The 6-foot-5 spiker is 4th in scoring, 2nd in blocking, and league-leading in spiking with a 43.66% success rate in her attacks.
But if you’ve been watching how she plays in the Lady Bulldogs’ first 5 outings in Season 78, you’d have noticed how all three setters of NU are yet to get the exact height of sets for the middle blocker.
Being one of the veterans, Santiago is showing her flexibility as she adjusts and makes do with whatever is sent her way but one can’t help but wish for better spiker-setter connection for the girls off F. Jhocson.
The dominance of Santiago was in full display in the 5th set of the NU-UST matchup last weekend but the moment she rotated to the back, everything fell apart as last year’s bronze medalist dropped its 2nd match of the season.
NU still has time to straighten things up and aim for a 5-2 record to end the 1st round. But first, they have to not let overconfidence get the best of them.
2. Alyssa Valdez, Ateneo
If you’re used to Alyssa Valdez scoring a set’s worth of points for Ateneo, her current numbers would lead you to thinking she has mellowed down. In 5 games, The Phenom has averaged 18.4 points per game so far.
For other players, to put it bluntly, that is already impressive. But everyone knows what Valdez is capable of hence the question: has her game dipped?
To that question, the answer is no.
In the top 10 best spikers alone, there are 2 other Lady Eagles in the list in Jho Maraguinot and Amy Ahomiro. Ahomiro, along with Maddie Madayag and Bea de Leon, are also in the top 10 best blockers in the tournament to date.
What does this mean? It means it is not an Alyssa Valdez team anymore. It hasn’t been since last year, to be honest. The Katipunan squad is now playing as a team without having to put as much pressure on the captain as before.
In spite of this logic, Valdez’s numbers are still MVP award-worthy being the 2nd best scorer, 2nd best spiker, 3rd best server and 10th best digger so far.
She can still deliver the goods but considering the improvement of her teammates, it is unnecessary at least for now.
1. Cherry Rondina, UST
At last, the hard work and effort of explosive spiker Cherry Rondina have been rewarded with not just one but two consecutive wins in the past week for UST.
After a disappointing 0-3 start, the Golden Tigresses have now broken into the win column, beating cellar-dweller UE and powerhouse NU.
While Rondina has become a marked man in the España squad’s matchup against FEU causing her to tally only 14 points, the emergence of skipper EJ Laure and veteran Carmela Tunay in the scoreboard has allowed the Cebuana to have less defenders watching her in many occassions.
That said, the 5-foot-5 outside hitter is back on top of the list, continuing her tug-of-war with veteran spikers all thanks to her leading in scoring, 5th in spiking, 2nd in serving and 6th in digging.
The beach volley champion can actually do more damage than what she is showing right now. UST’s wing spikers has tided them through the tough stretch but if the middle blockers join the scoring party, delivering more points can come easy for the diminutive spiker.
Every blocker and floor defender have their eyes on her. It is now on the hands of the setter and the other spikers to confuse the opponents and give a bigger opening for the cherry bomb to explode. — By Mac Dionisio