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Batangas Volleyball stands out in the UAAP Season 79 Final and the Palarong Pambansa 2017

Action in the 2016 UAAP women's volleyball final.  Image captured from ABS-CBN video on YouTube.

When the finale of the UAAP Season 79 women’s volleyball competition unfolds at the Araneta Coliseum on the second of May, Batangas volleyball will be prominently represented on either side of the green-blue divide, as it was last season.

On the green side, Kim Fajardo sets for the De La Salle University Lady Spikers in what is her swansong season. Named captain this year, Fajardo helped to stabilize a young DLSU team hurt by the graduation of stars Ara Galang and Mika Reyes at the end of last year’s championship-winning run.

Fajardo learned her volleyball in Calatagan on the western edge of Batangas. As an elementary student, in 2005 she first represented the Department of Education Batangas Province Division in the STCAA then CALABARZON in the Palarong Pambansa. She played varsity volleyball for the University of Sto. Tomas, where she was converted from spiker to setter, in high school, before being recruited by the Lady Spikers.

Also suiting up for the Lady Spikers will be the diminutive Dawn Nicole Macandili, whose form really picked up in the second round of eliminations and who is again in the running to pick up the Best Digger award. The Tanauan native first played competitive volleyball for De La Salle Lipa before transferring to De La Salle Santiago Zobel School in Alabang, where she was also mentored by the Lady Spikers’ coach Ramil de Jesus.

Over at the blue side, stepping up after the graduation of volleyball superstar Alyssa Valdez, incidentally herself a Batangueña from San Juan, is Alitagtag native Jhoanna Maraguinot. Maraguinot is probably not as powerful a spiker as Valdez, but has arguably a more varied arsenal of shots. Despite having suffered a knee injury in the second round of this season’s eliminations, Maraguinot’s contributions had been essential to propelling the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles to the top spot at the end of the elimination rounds.

Maraguinot is the daughter of the former Adamson Lady Falcon Lovella Agno-Maraguinot, the latter also an outstanding spiker probably even stronger than Valdez. Like her mother, the younger Maraguinot represented De La Salle Lipa in volleyball competitions. She was a varsity player in both her elementary and secondary years.

Finally, suiting up for the Lady Eagles will be Jennelle Marie Lo, who also played varsity volleyball for De La Salle Lipa before following Maraguinot to Ateneo. Lo captained her high school team and was bestowed the honor of being chosen for the Mythical 6 of the 2014 edition of the League of Southern Manila Schools. Playing libero for the Lady Eagles, Lo has also represented her university in beach volleyball competitions.

CALABARZON playing NCR in the recent Palarong Pambansa girls' volleyball final in Antique.  Image captured from video on the Antique Palaro 2017 page on Facebook.

Meanwhile, at the recently concluded Palarong Pambansa 2017 in Antique, the CALABARZON girls’ volleyball team shrugged off its slumber in the opening two sets to win gold at the expense of defending champion NCR. The core of the CALABARZON team was from De La Salle Lipa, whose varsity team earned the right to represent Region IV-A by winning the STCAA earlier.

The CALABARZON girls’ start was reminiscent of the DLSU Lady Spikers during the Michelle Gumabao years, a team that described itself as “diesel” or slow starters. The NCR took advantage of the CALABARZON girls’ initial lethargy to win the first two sets in dominant fashion, 25-19 and 25-11.

Beginning in the third set, the Batangueñas tightened up on their net and floor defense and bombarded NCR with loaded serves. Suddenly, the roles were reversed and it was CALABARZON which was playing with the poise and instinct of a champion team. CALABARZON took the next two sets, both scored 25-16. NCR could not take the momentum away from its opponents, who also won the fifth and decisive set, 15-9.

The way CALABARZON defended in the final three sets was, in patches, almost like a DLSU Lady Spikers team. This is, perhaps, hardly surprising because the team was coached by Regine Diego, herself an alumna of De La Salle Lipa who also played under Ramil de Jesus for DLSU in the UAAP.

There is also another very familiar name in the team, one Janel Maraguinot, younger sister of Jhoanna who was adjudged Best Setter during the 2016 edition of the Palarong Pambansa, the finals of which CALABARZON also contested and subsequently lost in four sets to NCR. Whether she heads to Ateneo to join up with her sister or head elsewhere to another university remains to be seen.

The other members of the CALABARZON team also from De La Salle Lipa were Kimberly Adajar, Mary Mirgie Bautista, Jamie Margaret Frago, Yvonne Cyrah Humarang and Alleiah Jan Malaluan, named joint Best Blocker of the recent Palaro. Keep these names in mind because some if not all of these young girls may soon be household names themselves playing for UAAP teams.

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