MANILA, Philippines – The development of the volleyball rivalry between the powerhouse De La Salle Lady Spikers and the Ateneo Lady Eagles was a big boost to the popularity of the sport in the Philippines.
Noel Orcullo, an assistant coach from De La Salle, said on ANC’s "Hardball" on Wednesday night that the rivalry between the two squads generated a lot of interest from fans.
“’Yung pagsisimula ng pagiging popular ng volleyball, nag-simula last year. Siguro dahil sa rivalry ng Ateneo at La Salle,” Orcullo said.
In Season 74, the Lady Spikers and the Lady Eagles met in the finals of the women’s volleyball tournament for the first time ever. Ateneo pulled off a shocker in the first game, but La Salle, armed with a thrice-to-beat advantage, won the next two games to clinch a second straight crown.
Volleyball became even more popular on Season 75, and attracted huge crowds when games were played at the Mall of Asia Arena and the Araneta Coliseum.
“Nagtuloy-tuloy, hanggang eto na nga. Ginawa sa mga malalaking venue,” Orcullo said.
Ateneo star Gretchen Ho agreed that the rivalry played a big part.
“Na-hype siya dahil sa Ateneo-La Salle,” Ho said in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBNnews.com. “Kasi ‘yung rivalry, nadala na sa volleyball, and people started to notice.”
The Lady Spikers and the Lady Eagles wrote another chapter of their rivalry when they met for the second straight year in the finals of the tournament. Again, it was La Salle who came out on top, sweeping Ateneo in a memorable series.
Ho and fellow Lady Eagle Alyssa Valdez said they are honored to be given credit for the rise of the sport, but also pointed out that there were several other factors that contributed to volleyball’s boom in popularity.
“Hindi lang naman kami ‘yung dahilan,” said Ho, a five-year UAAP veteran. “Kasi kung wala ‘yung La Salle, or ‘yung ibang team, kung ‘yung level of competition ay hindi ganoon kataas, I don’t think people will be interested to watch.”
“Pero since lahat ng teams nag-improve, lahat naman may own set of fans, kaya ganoon naging ka-popular ang volleyball,” she added.
Valdez, who was named Best Scorer of Season 75, gave credit to the people who have worked behind the scenes.
“Thankful kami na sinasabi nila na kami ‘yung reason, pero hindi lang siguro kami. ‘Yung mga nag-tiyaga, kunwari 'yung sa (Shakey’s) V-League. Kahit walang nanonood, pinapalabas pa rin sa TV,” said Valdez.
“’Yung mga tao behind (the scenes), 'yun ang malaking factor. Kami, naglalaro lang naman kami. Hindi kami ‘yung nagdesisyon na ipalabas kami sa TV,” she pointed out. “’Yung mga nasa likod – mga direktor. Sila ang nagpapaganda ng coverage kaya naa-amaze ang mga tao.”
What players on both sides can agree on is that they are thankful the sport they love is now getting the attention it deserves.
“Sa dami ng exposure, lumaki na ng lumaki ang following (ng volleyball),” said Orcullo, adding that their players are now being invited to numerous media appearances.
“Ngayon na sobrang nag-boom na ang volleyball, hindi lang ‘yung volleyball ang nabigyan ng opportunity, pati ‘yung individual na person,” said Valdez. “So siyempre thankful kami na na-appreciate ng mga tao ang mga ginagawa namin, at ‘yung volleyball naa-appreciate na rin nila.”
“Before pa naman, gusto ko na sumikat ‘yung volleyball,” said Ateneo’s Fille Cainglet. “Tapos, eto na. Parang dream come true.”
“Ang sarap ng feeling na nakarating ang volleyball dito, at saka part ako,” she said.