MANILA, Philippines – The UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball tournament cast a spotlight on numerous stars each weaving their own distinct narratives.
There were the likes of UST’s Eya Laure and Ateneo’s Faith Nisperos trying their hardest to carry their respective teams, Adamson’s Trisha Tubu fighting an off-court battle against detractors, and FEU’s rookie coach Tina Salak energizing a fallen program back on its feet.
And then there were the intertwined storylines of La Salle’s Angel Canino and NU’s Bella Belen, two generational talents trying to prove they can lead their respective teams at such a young age.
This year, it was Canino’s turn to end a team’s title drought, as the newly crowned rookie MVP led the Lady Spikers to their 12th women’s volleyball title – their first in five years.
Belen, the first and only other rookie MVP in the UAAP’s 85-year history, did not go down without a fight, however, as her Lady Bulldogs demanded La Salle to pry the championship away from them the hard way with two straight five-set thrillers.
From both sides, there came hard hits, bombastic swagger, and an all-around skill display that made volleyball the hot-ticket event it is in the Philippines today.
At the center of it all are two of the country’s brightest young prospects, who made sure to give the other due flowers once it was all said and done.
“I told her she did her best all throughout the season. I said they were really, really good, and they made it hard for us,” Canino said in Filipino at the championship presser. “They are one of the strongest teams in the UAAP and I’m really impressed with them. Then, she congratulated me.”
“She really deserved all of her awards,” Belen added in Filipino during NU’s presser. “What she showed this season was incredible. From defense to offense, we saw that she really worked. Her passion was really there and I’m very proud of her.”
“I know Angel really worked hard. That’s why she has all those awards today.”
On the court, Canino and Belen were as fierce and competitive as their teams demanded from them. Once the final buzzer sounds, however, all that boiling fire goes away, replaced with a simmering respect that will certainly stay for the rest of their budding careers.
“Only the fans create [that animosity] between us. It is all part of the game,” Belen said, echoing what Canino explained after La Salle’s Game 1 win.
“They think we’re immediately all enemies. Outside the game, we’re all good friends.”
As this season proved, this is definitely not the last we’ve heard from this talented pair destined for the stars. Philippine volleyball is certainly in good hands with these two around for years to come. – Rappler.com
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