Now that the very colorful UAAP Season 76 has ended (we now enter the postseason), we can clearly look at the stats and laud the performers who excelled in what has been one of the most memorable volleyball stagings yet.
BEST SCORER: Alyssa Valdez—AdMU
Needless to say in the women’s division, the battle for the scoring title had to go down the wire as a final day 21 point explosion from “The Phenom” Alyssa Valdez of Ateneo nets her the coveted plum over the swansong of Adamson stalwart Sheila “Bangnita” Pineda and MVP candidate Din-Din Santiago of the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs. Valdez finishes the season atop the leaderboard with a grand total of 269 points, fifteen markers ahead of Pineda’s 254 and 35 more than Santiago’s 234.
There scary part of this is Valdez still has two more years of eligibility left in the league and despite several nagging injuries doesn’t look like she’ll be slowing down anytime soon. Pineda and Santiago have played in their final years of eligibility and now it will be up to a phalanx of upstarts to battle “Bagyong Baldo” for the recognition in Season 77.
Another thing to point out is that the six names behind the 200 point club members will all be back next year, including the Far Eastern University rookie Bernadeth Pons who registered 165 total points this season and introduced herself as the sixth leading scorer overall.
The chase duo of Valdez next season could still be UST’s exciting offensive weapon Pam Lastimosa and reigning co-MVP Ara Galang of La Salle. These two finished in almost a virtual tie for fourth with Lastimosa just barely edging ahead with 179 points to Galang’s final output of 178. Tigress utility spiker Mela Tunay wound up in seventh with 155.
Three phenomenal quickers look to be the heir apparents of Din-Din as younger sister Jaja claiming the eighth spot with 150 total points and the Lady Maroons tandem of Angeli Araneta (rumoured to be leaving the varsity squad) and Kathy Bersola with 146 and 144 markers, respectively.
As far as specialized scoring goes, the lady with the most spikes recorded this season is Pineda with 215 total successful spikes—or 85% of her total points.
Bersola attained 42 total block points this season—just barely ahead of her pursuers Genevieve Casugod (FEU’s diamond in the rough first year player) who had 39, Adamson rookie Mylene Paat (33) and DLSU’s Mika Reyes (30).
I don’t know if many are aware that Bersola is only in her sophomore year out of the Makati Science High School and is said to be an academic scholar. Her cerebral approach to her craft could net her more of these trophies in the years to come.
Valdez once again emerges as the best server of the season as she had her serve unreturned 35 times, while Pineda finished second with 27 aces. Lady Spikers’ setter Kim Fajardo came out of nowhere (29th in total scoring) to come in third with an astounding 24 aces.
But although the abovementioned names made a difference for their respective squads with the number of points they contributed due to their scoring, efficiency is also a stat that Sherwin Malonzo’s team of dedicated UAAP VIS (Volleyball Information System) personnel also keep tabs on.
BEST SPIKER: Din-Din Santiago—NU
The most efficient spikers in the league turn out to be the Santiago sisters, with Din-Din registering a sick 46.1% success rate (almost one point for every two spike attempts) and “siobe” Jaja garnering 41.9%. DLSU skipper Abigail Maraño is third in this category with a 41.2% spiking efficiency.
BEST BLOCKER: Kathy Bersola—UP
As far as blocking efficiency goes, Bersola is the queen with 0.91% per set (almost a block point per set she plays), followed closely by Casugod’s 0.8% and Reyes’ 0.68%.
BEST SERVER: Alyssa Valdez—AdMU
Valdez gets a service ace more than twice every three sets, according to the numbers, with a 0.74% success rate on her serve being unreturned. Second place in serving efficiency goes to Fajardo with 0.55% and third is Pineda with ).51%.
ALSO READ: Ian Sangalang: The forgotten rookie
As far as non-scoring statistics goes, there have been many stories to speak of.
The liberos of the league are usually relied upon to handle all digging and reception assignments—unless you just happen to Pineda who I’ve referred to more than once as a “closet libero” due to her uncanny floor defense skills. As far as digging goes, two liberos stood out in their quest to take the throne vacated by former Lady Bulldog Jen Reyes—arguably one of the best liberos of all-time.
BEST DIGGER: Den-Den Lazaro—AdMU
In the end, it was Ateneo’s ever-reliable Den-Den Lazaro who takes this year’s Best Dooger accolade with a staggering 3.38 digs per set. Her closest rival was FEU veteran Tin Agno who closed the season with 3.27 digs per set in one of the closest battles in recent years.
BEST RECEIVER: Den-Den Lazaro—AdMU
Lazaro makes it a double victory by also taking the Best Receiver plum with an efficiency percentage of 31.77%; more than three percentage points ahead of her closest nemesis Dancel Dusaran of UST, who finished the season with 28.53%.
The amazing thing about Lazaro’s achievements is that off the court she requires very thick glasses to help her go about her day-to-day activities on campus and sources claim that her grade is at the 400 mark. That’s dedication and talent mixed together at just the right proportions to create a successful—and dedicated—libero.
BEST SETTER: Kim Fajardo—DLSU
This should come as no surprise to many as La Salle vaunted offense was actually more talked about this year than their defense—which is strange. The move by Lady Spikers Head Coach Ramil de Jesus to move Fajardo into the starting line-up over last season’s pick Mika Esperanza suddenly made people forget that names like Michele Gumabao, Wensh Tiu and Melissa Gohing are no longer on the roster.
Fajardo is perhaps the gutsiest ad-libber in the league as she has an uncanny ability to turn a bad reception into a stellar play or a broken play into a successful score because of how her targets respond to her playmaking. The team trusts her with that second ball and although Galang’s individual numbers are down this year—as well as Maraño's touches—the team has found the necessary points at the right time thanks to the incredible 6.93 setting efficiency ratio per set unleashed by her. That’s like having seven excellent sets per set and it’s going to be very difficult to lose with that kind of efficiency—oh wait, DLSU didn’t lose a single match.
Despite Fajardo seemingly running away with this accolade, three other orchestrators made it interesting with Ateneo freshman Jia Morado coming in a close second with 6.83, third place belonging to NU’s Ivy Perez (6.70) and veteran setter Gyzelle Sy of FEU finished with 6.55.
As La Salle now only needs two more wins to capture their fourth straight crown, Fajardo needs to throw away all these stats and just be the “madiskarte” setter she has evolved to be in the championship round.
The only awards to be disputed now are the Rookie of the Year and the MVP.
Everyone has their version of why so and so should be it. What’s yours?
Follow Noel Zarate on Twitter (@NoelZarate) and email firstname.lastname@example.org