V-LEAGUE DIARIES: GUARDIAN DEITIES OF THE VOLLEYBALL COURT
Volleyball is one of the sports where height matters the most but there’s one position where being short is an advantage. Dressed in a different color jersey, liberos will definitely catch your attention. Regardless of their size, they play a big part of the team—guardians.
Being a libero is exhausting, being in the game at all times and at all costs can take its toll. They are expected to run as fast as the lightning just to keep the ball in the air and to also have the best defensive play, after all, they man the floor as much as blockers man the net.
Writer’s Note: With the first-ever professional season of Premier Volleyball League (PVL) fast approaching, let’s dive into stories that not only made up the dream volleyball league (hopefully) but also an anecdote of why we love the sport. Here, we go through the guardian deities we have seen so far.
De La Salle University (DLSU) has been home to great liberos of all time. With the likes of Melissa Gohing guarding the floor, DLSU made big strides in the world of collegiate volleyball. So when the “Ninja” left the home the Green Archers many questioned as to who can fill the shoes left by Gohing. But lo and behold Dawn Macandili, penned as “Ms. Everywhere”, made a name for herself not just in the Philippine volleyball but also on the international stage.
She definitely can go from end to end, with her talent she was crowned as a four-time Best Libero in the Philippine Super Liga (PSL) and became the first libero-MVP in the country back in 2016. Back in 2017, she also got to play in the Asian Women’s Volleyball Championships where she bagged the 2nd Best Libero award. With all her achievements and unparalleled skills, she was dubbed by Okayama Seagulls head coach Akiyoshi Kawamoto as a world-class player. Coming from a Japanese coach who has mentored and faced liberos with strong defensive skills, we can only hope that Macandili can continue to be the face of Filipino defense.
Denden Lazaro has etched her name in the list of Filipino liberos. She, after all, can be the epitome of ‘pusong palaban’. Who can forget her amazing performance against DLSU despite an ankle injury? She became the heart and soul of Ateneo’s defense where she was dubbed as The Philippines’ Iron Eagle after proving that even being small, someone can still play in a sport where height matters the most and play a crucial part for the team.
After a slow start in her collegiate career, Lazaro grew and became one of the best liberos in the Philippines. This is manifested not only in her UAAP days but also in her professional career where she won multiple championships and best libero awards. Now, after 10 years of service to the Philippine national team, Lazaro became one of the most celebrated Filipina players of all time.
Of course, Kath Arado of the University of the East (UE) Lady Red Warriors wouldn’t miss the cut with her efficiency on the court and anyone will be amazed by her feline-like agility. Looking back in UAAP Season 81, UE gave their opponents one hell of a fight; it may not be in blockings or attacks but surely because of the Arado’s god-tier defense. She was always all over the place digging spikes after spikes.
With Arado’s amazing defense, she not only led UE she also helped their setter Lai Bendong win the Best Setter award in the UAAP. After her collegiate career, Arado brought her talents to the PSL where she gave her opponents a run for their money. As she proved her worth both in the local and international scene, after four remarkable years with Generika-Ayala and her stint with the National Team, Arado is set to leave her mark once again in the upcoming PVL under the banner of PetroGazz. At the end of the day, wherever Arado will go, one thing is for sure—great plays are awaiting.
Lizlee Ann “Tatan” Gata-Pantone
“Defense is actually easier when you’re shorter.” But Lizlee Ann “Tatan” Gata-Pantone just broke that stereotyping and showcased that even with a height of 5-foot-6, she can rock the libero position. Before the rise of the likes of Macandili and Lazaro, Pantone became the prototype of a Filipino libero.
Hailed as the “Legendary Libero”, Pantone’s intelligence inside the court knows no bound. She may not be known for does “buwis buhay” saves but her fast reflexes coupled with her ability to read their opponents’ spikes made her one of the most deadly liberos the Philippines has ever seen.
Currently, she holds the most number of digs and receptions in a single game tallying 77 excellent digs and 63 excellent receptions. And after all the accolades and her long service to the Philippine volleyball Pantone finally decided to hang her jersey for good. Despite leaving the volleyball court, the name Lizlee Ann “Tatan” Gata-Pantone will be etched to everyone as the “Queen of all Liberos”.
Kyla Atienza may not be as flamboyant as others with their amazing dig, rolling, and dive but put her on a court and see that even without flashy skills someone can rock the position so well, naturally. Just like how she is giving her team Creamline, a well-received dig that is especially most beneficial to their setter, Jia Morado.
Atienza may not have many special awards but she reinforced the FEU in the Shakey’s V-league, PSL, and PVL from 2014-2018. As such, she won the UAAP Rookie of the Year Award back in 2013 and bagged the Best Libero in the 2019 Premier Volleyball League Open Conference. She proved that not everyone has to standout just to contribute to her team, her efficiency in defense became the backbone of whatever team she’s in.
With the upcoming PVL, volleyball fanatics are about to go wild and crazy once again. And also about to see the asthmatic plays of every team as well as the deadly defense of the aforementioned guardian deities.