MANILA -- The University of Santo Tomas Golden Spikers have unearthed a star in Josh Ybañez, who has emerged as one of the most exciting players in the UAAP Season 85 men's volleyball tournament.
The 19-year-old spiker made history after being named the Collegiate Press Corps Player of the Week for the period of March 15-19 -- the first men's volleyball player to earn the distinction.
Ybañez shone for the Golden Spikers in their last game of the first round, firing six service aces en route to 18 points as they clinched a 25-17, 25-21, 25-23 victory over University of the East. He previously torched Ateneo for a career-high 31 points on 26 kills, three blocks, and two aces in a 21-25, 28-26, 25-21, 25-21 win.
His stellar performances helped UST achieve their best first round record in 12 years, as they won six of their first seven games.
Despite being praised as a super rookie, the General Santos City native continues to stay humble as he endeavors to become an even better player for his team.
"Hindi ko yun iniisip kasi open pa rin ako sa mga turo ng coach, open pa rin ako for learnings na ituturo nila sa akin. Sobrang dami ko pang dapat matutunan," said Ybañez
Following the completion of the first round, Ybañez has climbed the rankings to become the league's second highest scorer with an impressive 147 points, and is also ranked as the best server with a 0.54 aces per set and the third-best spiker with a 43.07% attack rate.
But UST coach Odjie Mamon believes Ybañez has plenty of room to grow even as the rookie is showing that he is also a top contributor on defense. Ybañez is currently ranked 2nd best receiver in the league with an efficiency of 55.97%, 9th best digger with 1.68 digs per set, and 10th best blocker with 0.50 blocks per set.
“Siyempre ginu-groom ko pa rin siya, ninu-nurture pa rin,” said Mamon. “Kahit pabayaan mo yan maglalaro yan makakapuntos yan pero siyempre mas maganda yung nasa sistema siya, in sync siya don sa mga kasama niya sabay sabay sila maggo-grow.”
After the grueling first round campaign, Ybañez knows he will be the focus of attention when teams face off again but is undeterred despite the rising pressure and instead expressed confidence in his team.
"Sa totoo lang hindi naman ako nagwoworry kasi ang team namin sobrang daming tutulong,” Ybañez explained. “Siguro first round sa akin pero for sure yung second round magstep up yung teammates ko. Wala akong dapat ikatakot.”
Ybañez is the third rookie to earn the citation after La Salle’s Angel Canino and Adamson’s Trisha Tubu following a unanimous vote by the group of print and online scribes covering collegiate league.
He edged other candidates from UST in Regina Jurado and Eya Laure, National University star Bella Belen, and La Salle’s Angel Canino and Fifi Sharma to earn the weekly citation, presented by San Miguel Corporation and Philippine Sports Commission, with MNL Kingpin, Tinapayan Festival, and Jockey as minor sponsors. -- Bryan Gadingan