Fast Break

The Rise of Volleyball in the Sports Hierarchy

Volleyball being an emerging sport for the past decade made its way to becoming one of the mainstream sport in the industry. From small leagues and inter-barangay tournaments to collegiate and pro leagues, volleyball has drawn massive attention from the public. Players and fans have slowly crawled their way out of the underground to the limelight. From schools, current and aspiring players, and people who are just beginning to take notice—everybody wants to be a part of the saga that is Philippines volleyball.

/ 30 August 2020

Of Creating Opportunities

Many have contributed to the continuous rise of the Philippines’ volleyball industry. Massive tournaments like UAAP, NCAA, and Shakey’s V-League (SVL) started the march of mainstream volleyball. 

Despite the huge following of these leagues, many players in the past have none to little choice after finishing their collegiate careers because of the small opportunity in the pro scene with SVL being the only commercial league in the country. That’s why superstars like Sang Laguilles, Michelle Segodine, Monica Aleta, and Jessica Curato disappeared after their collegiate stints.

Because of the insurgence of volleyball in the past decade, these leagues gave birth to more tournaments like Philippine SuperLiga (PSL), Spikers Turf, and Premier Volleyball League (PVL) which open doors of opportunity for players to showcase their prowess. Needless to say, these tourneys have brought the sport to a whole different level—volleyball has now solidified its spot as one of the top sport in the country.

Birth of the Phenom

Athletes come and go, but few are successful in leaving their marks in the pages of history. But, if you ask players who they know the most and who inspired them to try the sport, it is likely to be no other than the ‘Phenom’ Ateneo skipper, Alyssa Valdez.

It was in the 76th season of the UAAP that Alyssa Valdez made history by bringing the much elusive championship to Katipunan. Despite their team’s success, the Lady Eagles struggled for the entire season as their veteran core or also known as the ‘Fab 5’, consisted of big names such as Angeline “Dzi” Gervacio, Fille Saint Merced Cainglet-Cayetano, Jamenea “Jem” Ferrer, Gretchen Ho, and Aillysse Nacachi, had already left the squad.

With the help of the revolutionary coach Tai Bundit and his ‘heartstrong’ mentality, they were able to beat the defending champion despite La Salle having a thrice-to-beat advantage.

Philip Ella Juico, chairman of the Philippine SuperLiga, believed that the popularity of the sport started from the rivalry of the De La Salle University’s Lady Spikers and Ateneo De Manila University’s Lady Eagles. “There has to be some kind of rivalry. These started to build up because of the La Salle – Ateneo rivalry which attracted thousands of fans and when they graduate and played in other leagues, they bring with them their fans into the club leagues,” said Juico.

True enough, the La Salle and Ateneo rivalry caught the attention of many people. From 3,002 spectators inside the Arena in San Juan on their first finals match to 20,000 attendees in the Mall of Asia Arena. Little did these athletes know that the green and blue rivalry would be the start of a new chapter of Philippines Volleyball.

Jump start

With the women’s volleyball being a constant staple in the industry, its men’s counterpart will not be kept silent. They too have been on a steady rise just behind the women’s division. 

It was in the 30th Southeast East Asian Games where they made the most noise, with the Philippines Men’s Volleyball Team bringing the country its first podium finish where they claimed the silver medal. This victory once again revolutionized the sport to where it is now.

The lethal duo of Mark Espejo, three times UAAP champion and five times seasons MVP, together with Bryan Bagunas, two times UAAP champion and one time seasons MVP, led the pack with their firepower that overwhelmed the 29th Sea Games silver medalist Thailand. PMVT captain John Vic De Guzman believed that their success in the recent Sea Games has inspired boys to pursue their career in men’s volleyball.

There is really no secret on how volleyball came to be known, it was not planned either was on purpose. But the volleyball community has much to be thankful for the existence of the players who gave meaning and lift the sport from the shadows and hope that the aspiring players will continue the legacy and inspire the next generation.