UAAP Women’s Volleyball: The MVP and ROY races

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The stats of Season 76 are in. So no matter what happens beginning Knockout Wednesday, it will not reflect on the final season numbers in determining this year’s MVP and Rookie of the Year (ROY).

In my previous piece, I’ve already indicated the winners of the individual awards. These are immutable as they are derived from the actual statistical performances churned out by the ladies this season. So congratulations are in order for the following ladies:

Best Scorer – Alyssa Valdez (AdMU)

Best Spiker – Din-Din Santiago (NU)

Best Blocker – Kathy Bersola (UP)

Best Server – Alyssa Valdez (AdMU)

Best Digger – Den-Den Lazaro (AdMU)

Best Receiver – Den-Den Lazaro (AdMU)

Best Setter – Kim Fajardo (DLSU)

For the ROY and MVP race, the system varies from league to league.

In the Shakey’s V-League (SVL), the awards committee fetes the athlete that not only excelled on the stats sheets, but also displayed “valuable” presence on the court, how the team responded to the player’s energy and the results netted by the player’s team.

During the SVL Open, Army’s Jovelyn Gonzaga received her first MVP recognition despite being statistically against Thailand’s Kannika Thipachot—who went on to be named Best Scorer. Gonzaga’s silent leadership, her connection with the fans and the overall respect she garnered from her peers was enough to catapult the previously unheralded 21-year-old from Guimaras to elite status in the sport.

In the Philippine Super Liga (PSL) Invitationals, the league blended the team’s results with the individual numbers and scoring champion Venus Bernal went on to win the inaugural MVP plum—despite being among the league’s worst in spike percentage. The PSL Grand Prix did away with the awarding of individual statistical accolades and instead feted by position, with only two Filipinos bagging the awards in Suzanne Roces (Best Utility Spiker) of PLDT MyDSL and Maureen Penetrante-Ouano (one of two Best Middle Blockers) of Cignal HD. That was based on stats and impact as they both came from teams that went on to attain podium finishes.

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In the UAAP, it has been traditionally been based on stats. Abigail Maraño of De La Salle University (DLSU) has captured back-to-back MVP awards, but her second came in a tie with teammate Ara Galang just last season. The most subjective MVP award is the one that is given in the Finals as—for example—last year’s Finals MVP was then DLSU utility-spiker Michele Gumabao, although many felt Maraño, Galang and Lady Spikers quicker Mika Reyes were the more major catalysts in DLSU’s third straight title.

In fact, La Salle has established a monopoly on the MVP trophy over the last three season where they’ve gotten the championship. It helped them that in those three years, they also finished the season with the best record in the league. The last time the MVP was from a team that did not figure in the Finals was in Season 72 when FEU’s Cherry May Vivas got the selection.

Here is the list of the MVPs over the last ten seasons and how their respective teams placed:

2003-04 – Maureen Penetrante, DLSU (Champion)

2004-05 – Maureen Penetraznte, DLSU (Champion)

2005-06 – Desiree Hernandez, DLSU (Champion)

2006-07 – Venus Bernal, UST, (Champion)

2007-08 – Wendy Anne Semana, FEU (Champion)

2008-09 – Manilla Santos, DLSU (Champion)

2009-10 – Cherry May Vivas, FEU (5th Place)

2010-11 – Jacqueline Alarca, DLSU (Champion)

2011-12 – Abigail Maraño, DLSU (Champion)

2012-13 – Abigail Maraño/Victonara Galang, DLSU (Champion)

2013-14 – ?

Many will once again make a case for Maraño to win her third consecutive MVP and be only the second volleybelle to achieve the feat since former national team stalwart Monica Aleta of FEU did it at the start of the millennium. However, in last year’s awarding rites, Galang’s presence created a ripple in the process.

It has been alleged that there was a miscommunication that happened within the league and that it was supposed to only have been one of the two that was to be awarded, but since both ladies were already informed of their victory, the league decided to award them both. It is still unclear who the supposed lone recipient was.

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For Maraño she has had a steady year and has once again shown the vocal leadership and energy necessary for the Lady Spikers to become successful anew. However from a numbers standpoint, Season 76 has netted career lows for her in scoring (13th) and blocking (5th—she won this skill award last year). However, Maraño figures in the top ten in Spiking (3rd), Serving (10th) and astonishingly Digging (10th)—the only quicker in this category dominated by liberos.

Many will also say that Maraño’s value this season came in allowing other members of the team to carry the load as it is apparent that the Lady Spikers scattered the offensive duties in this campaign and have become even more impregnable. But she is still the only player in the league who finished in the top fifteen in five categories and may indeed have a strong case for a record-tying third MVP.

The other candidates being brought to the forefront are Santiago, Valdez and Adamson’s graduating wunderkind Sheila “Bangnita” Pineda.

Santiago is playing in her final season and her victory in the spiking race has solidified her status as among the most intimidating presences in the game. She also finished in the top ten in three other categories: Scoring (3rd), Blocking (6th), Serving (4th).

Valdez has won her second straight scoring title and has almost singlehandedly brought Ateneo to the Final Four, this time without the vaunted “Fab Five” behind her. She’s the only MVP candidate who has won two individual skills awards: Scoring and Serving.

Pineda would be the dark horse in this quartet. She finished second in scoring—losing out to Valdez on the final day of the season—and has also finished third in serving efficiency (she started her collegiate career serve specialist bench warmer for then Head Coach Minerva Dulce Pante). Her plus factor comes in the fact that she is in the top ten in the two floor defense categories: Digging (3rd) and Receiving (10th). Some will say her height (5'4") is that of a libero’s anyway, but she joins Maraño and Santiago as the only three who finished in the top ten in four different categories.

In the ROY competition, it’s a tougher fight.

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Here’s a list of the previous winners over the last decade:

2003-04 – Charo Soriano (AdMU)

2004-05 – Mary Jean Balse (UST)*

2005-06 – Lilet Mabbayad (UST)*

2006-07 – Maica Morada (FEU)

2007-08 – Kara Acevedo (AdMU)

2008-09 – Melissa Gohing (DLSU)

2009-10 – Joanne Siy (DLSU)

2010-11 – Mika Esperanza (DLSU)

2011-12 – Ara Galang (DLSU)

2012-13 – Aiko Urdas (NU)

2013-14 – ?

*Present national team candidates

Of course, NU pagoda Jaja Santiago should be the hands down winner as it’s not every day there’s a 6’5” freshman that joins a women’s volleyball league. Sometimes that even doesn’t happen in men’s basketball.

Jaja’s opponents in this race should be FEU’s Bernadeth Pons (the highest ranking rookie in the scoring race at 6th), Lady Eagles playmaker Jia Morado (who finished only a tenth of a point behind Fajardo in the Best Setter race) and UE’s Shaya Adorador (15th in scoring and obviously the new cornerstone of the Lady Warriors’ rebuilding campaign).

La Salle rookie utility spiker Desiree Cheng was slapped with a yellow card in the Lady Spikers’ final match against NU last Saturday for resentment to a call and there are allegations that once a player is penalized in this manner, it takes her out of the awards race.

If that’s really the case, then it’s an unfortunate turn of events as DLSU was keen on reviving the tradition of them winning both MVP and ROY plums as they did in Seasons 71 (MVP: Santos, ROY: Melissa Gohing), Season 73 (MVP: Alarca, ROY: Mika Esperanza), Season 74 (MVP: Maraño, ROY: Galang)--if Maraño does emerge as Season 76 MVP.

The MVP race is closer than it has been in recent years, so while Maraño may appear to have everything going for her, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else gets it—alright, I’ll be a bit surprised.

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So who do you think will take home the MVP and ROY trophies this year?

Follow Noel Zarate on Twitter (@NoelZarate) and email sportztackle@yahoo.com