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The top volleyball stories of 2017

F2 ended volleyball year 2017 by taking the PSL Grand Prix title. Roman Prospero/Philippine SuperLiga (file photo)

By Ricky Manliguis

AS 2017 draws to a close, let's revisit the top volleyball stories of the year in this year-end report.

Three conferences, four champs

The 2017 season of the Philippine Superliga produced four--yes, four--champions.

Kobe Shinwa Women's U from Japan and Cignal HD Spikers shared the title in the Invitational Cup, while Petron dispatched F2 Logistics in five grueling sets for the All-Filipino title. 

The Cargo Movers got its payback though in the Grand Prix, coming back from a 0-1 series deficit to sweep Games 2 and 3 for the title against the Blaze Spikers. MJ Perez bucked personal grief to tow the Cargo Movers to glory, with Series MVP Cha Cruz and the La Salle core backing her up against a talent-laden Petron side reinforced by the ever-potent Lindsay Stalzer, Hillary Hurley and libero Yuri Fukuda. 

New name, new game 

The Premier Volleyball League, formerly known as the Shakey's V-League, held its inaugural season under the new name this year with three different squads claiming titles.

Pocari Sweat picked up where it left off last season to claim Balipure in the finals of the Reinforced Conference. With the addition of high-scoring import Krystal Rivers and plus the old local reliables in Season MVP Myla Pablo and company, the Lady Warriors picked up its 3rd successive crown. 

The Waters Defenders then exacted revenge on the Lady Warriors in the Open Conference, sweeping the best-of-three finals for the title.

The road to the crown though went tough for the Roger Gorayeb-mentored BaliPure. Seeded fourth after the seven-game elims, it pulled a monumental upset against top-seed and undefeated Creamline Cool Smashers featuring Alyssa Valdez in the semifinals. Grethcel Soltones took home the Finals MVP and 2nd Best Outside Spiker plums.   

National University capped off the season by successfully defending its Collegiate Conference plum after a 2-0 series sweep of Far Eastern U. Playing under new coach Babes Castillo, the Lady Bulldogs cruised to the elimination round with a 5-0 card, then dispatched eventual third-placers and NCAA champs Arellano U in the semis before carving out four-set wins against the Lady Tams in Games 1 and 2.

PH gets to host an international tourney again

The country also hosted the 19th Asian Women's Volleyball Championships in Binan, Laguna and Muntinlupa City participated in by 14 countries from Asia.

Japan went on to win the gold by squeaking past a game Thailand squad in a thrilling five-set finale, 26-28, 20-25, 25-16, 25-16, 15-7. South Korea then took the bronze by whipping China in straight sets, 25-11, 25-18, 25-20. 

The Philippine team, skippered by Mika Reyes, finished 8th, a better improvement than the 12th place finishes in its previous two appearances in the biennial spikefest. Notable members of the PH team mentored by Francis Vicente were Alyssa Valdez, Jaja Santiago, Denden Lazaro, plus La Salle stalwarts Majoy Baron, Kim Fajardo, Kim Dy, and Dawn Macandili.

Another year, another title for the Lady Spikers after scoring back-to-back in UAAP Season 79. Michael Joseph Romeo/Dugout Philippines (file photo)

La Salle, Arellano reign supreme; Ateneo's men's team makes #His3

Ateneo and La Salle complete victorious defenses of its respective UAAP volleyball titles in Season 79.

The Blue Eagles, behind another MVP performance from Mark Espejo, completed a 16-game sweep and 3rd successive title as it mangled a gritty National U squad in the finals. This proved to be a perfect send-off of graduating spikers Rex Intal and Josh Villanueva and cemented the status of Ateneo as a force in men's collegiate spikes. 

The Lady Archers, meanwhile, made it back-to-back after dispatching Ateneo in two games. The Taft-based squad were bannered by Season MVP Majoy Baron, Finals MVP Desiree Cheng and graduating setter Kim Fajardo.

On the other hand, Arellano University claimed its second NCAA women's volleyball title and second in three seasons by sweeping the undefeated San Sebastian Lady Stags in the finals.The Lady Chiefs negated the thrice-to-beat edge of the Recto-based team punctuated by a 25-15, 22-25, 25-23, 25-16 Game 3 win. 

Before booking a trip to the finals, the girls from Legarda had to dethrone College of Saint Benilde in the stepladder play-offs. 

What will 2018 bring to our volleyball universe? Let us all wait and see.

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