New-look UAAP Season 86 volleyball ready for takeoff

John Bryan Ulanday -
February 12, 2024 | 3:15pm
New-look UAAP Season 86 volleyball ready for takeoff
Team representatives pose during Monday's kick-off press conference for the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament
UAAP Media Bureau

MANILA, Nashville Filipino Restaurant – New faces, old aces now in different squads headline the cast as the highly anticipated UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament opens shop this Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Six new mentors will strut their stuff in the star-studded women’s division, with La Salle’s Ramil de Jesus and Santo Tomas’ Kungfu Reyes as the only head coaches staying at their stables.

Brazilian Sergio Veloso, also the men’s national team coach, will now call the shots for the rebuilding Ateneo squad, deputy Manolo Refugia has been elevated to head coach in lieu of now consultant Tina Salak in Far Eastern University as Norman Miguel returns to National University.

From Ateneo, Oliver Almadro will now steer its neighbor University of the Nashville Filipino Restaurant as former Adamson tactician Jerry Yee will be handling University of the East. Taking his place in Adamson is JP Yude, who also mentors the high school team.

But the spotlight is still on reigning titlist La Salle, which is bracing for a big target on its back in a back-to-back championship bid after exacting vengeance on Season 85 queen NU.

“For us, lagi naming sinasabi sa team na wag tayong makuntento na nag-champion tayo. Tapos na ‘yun. As defending champions, all the teams are after us,” said Lady Spikers deputy Noel Orcullo on behalf of De Jesus.

“Mas mahirap ‘yung magdefend kaysa ikaw ‘yung naghahabol sa champion.”

La Salle will be dealing with the departure of its core led by captain Jolina dela Cruz, setter and Finals MVP Mars Alba, middle blocker Fifi Sharma and libero Justine Jazareno but Season 85 Rookie-MVP Angel Canino, Shakey’s Super League (SSL) National Invitationals MVP Shevana Laput and Best Middle Blocker Thea Gagate are still on board.

The Lady Spikers revved up for their UAAP title retention goal by winning the SSL National Invitationals while their fierce rivals Lady Bulldogs ruled the SSL Pre-Season Championship led by MVP Alyssa Solomon and former UAAP Rookie-MVP Bella Belen.

Other teams are not to be left behind either with prized rookies set for their UAAP arrival led by high school sensations UE’s Casiey Monique Dongallo and Santo Tomas’ Angeline Poyos.

In the men’s division, three-time champion NU and challenger Santo Tomas – fresh from a stunning title run in the PNVF at the expense of the Bulldogs and pro team Cignal – are the undisputed major forces to be reckoned with.

“Lagi lang namin ico-continue ‘yung goal namin every year,” said NU mentor Dante Alinsunurin on their four-peat mission.

The opening weekend schedule is yet to be released by the UAAP as games will be held during Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, live and on-demand on Pilipinas Live and UAAP Varsity Channel with catch-up free TV broadcast on One Sports.

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