The University Athletic Association of the Philippines already cancelled Season 82 over the ongoing and concerning threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). And while it still provided a glimmer of hope of resumption of collegiate play, including the marquee volleyball tournament, albeit with a reconfigured format if the situation improves, at this point nothing is definite yet.
With the abrupt ending to the season, I am not surprised at all that UAAP fans, particularly those of volleyball, are ruing greatly the unexpected turn of events, believing firmly that they are missing out on potentially one of the more exciting seasons of the sport in the country’s biggest collegiate league.
It is really hard to argue with their assertions. I mean, prior to the cancellation of the season, UAAP volleyball was up to a competitive start.
In women’s volleyball, the National University Lady Bulldogs and De La Salle Lady Spikers were the only unbeaten teams with 2-0 and 1-0 records, respectively, with four teams — Ateneo Lady Eagles, Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws, University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses and University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons – third running with identical 1-1 cards.
The Adamson Lady Falcons and University of the East Lady Warriors were at seventh and eighth place with respective records of 0-1 and 0-2.
Level of play was engaging with hardly any team really dominating the other.
NU was undefeated but its victories over UST and Adamson, in that order, were hard-earned ones showing both the strength and vulnerabilities of its team of mixed faces of old and new. La Salle topped rival Ateneo in its lone game in Season 82 but it was not as fluid like what we are accustomed to seeing from the Lady Spikers.
The same goes for the defending champions Lady Eagles, who were deemed to be favorites anew but showed some kinks early on despite their tremendous upside.
UST, FEU and UP, too, were still finding their groove albeit showed fire and competitiveness.
Adamson dropped its lone game for the season but it showed promise and so did UE which displayed fight in the two games it had.
It was seemingly a wide-open race for the title, something not seen in recent league history.
Then there were the impressive individual plays which were not only confined to familiar faces as rookies were front and center, too, which made the season all the more interesting at the onset.
Rookies Faith Nisperos (Ateneo), Imee Hernandez (UST), Thea Gagate (La Salle) and Margot Mutshima (NU) were some of the freshmen who instantly impressed with their showing for their teams.
Also making heads turn with their play were Adamson setter Louie Romero, Ateneo libero Roma Mae Doromal, UE’s Jana Lana and NU’s Chi Arroyo.
These new faces complemented the showing of the veterans like Tin Tiamzon and Joanna Dela Cruz (La Salle), Kat Tolentino and Jhoanna Maraguinot (Ateneo), Risa Sato (NU), Tots Carlos and Isa Molde (UP), sisters Eya and EJ Laure (UST) and Jeannette Villareal (FEU), making the games really worth watching.
The same went for the men’s side.
The league positioned Season 82 as the year the men’s play would be better spotlighted and the UAAP men responded and showed they deserve a better share of the limelight with quality competition.
NU and FEU were tied on top with 2-0 cards, followed by UP, Ateneo and UE (1-1).
La Salle and Adamson were at 0-1 and UST at 0-2.
Just like the women’s play, the men were really fighting it out and angling to get their campaign to a solid start.
Top teams NU (defending champion) and FEU were leading the pack early alright but teams like UP and UE, which had it rough last year, were showing much competitiveness while Ateneo, UST, Adamson and La Salle could not be discounted either; all good signs worth putting forward.
Considering what the fans might have missed out with the abrupt cancellation of UAAP Season 82 volleyball, the ruing over it that we have in our midst is not unwarranted.
But the current situation over the serious threat of COVID-19 undeniably is far important than volleyball, or any sport for that matter, engaging they may be. This is a battle we have to take on with much seriousness and addressed with great resolve.
Who knows? Maybe we will still see UAAP volleyball this season. But until then, stay safe, Philippines.
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.