MANILA, Philippines – The Final Four cast is set in UAAP women’s volleyball with the top-ranked Ateneo Lady Eagles battling the No. 4 FEU Lady Tamaraws, and the second-seeded UST Tigresses clashing with defending champion La Salle.
But before standout spikers like Ateneo’s Bea De Leon, UST’s Sisi Rondina, La Salle’s Des Cheng, and FEU’s Heather Guino-o take the floor, let’s put the spotlight on the distinguished men at the sidelines who mentored the top 4 teams to a scintillating run this season.
George Pascua, Far Eastern University
Pascua was a former player for the FEU men's volleyball team and had champion La Salle head coach Ramil De Jesus as teammate.
As a coach, he won 4 titles for his alma mater’s men’s squad. His championship run continued in the semi-pro circuit where he notched 3 titles as a women’s volleyball coach.
Pascua rejoined the FEU program in 2017 and under his tutelage, the Lady Tamaraws seem to be on their way to bringing back FEU’s glory days as a UAAP volleyball powerhouse.
After FEU returned to the Finals last season, his young team gets another crack at the title, although the Lady Tamaraws need to get past league-leading Ateneo first in the Final Four.
Kung Fu Reyes, University of Santo Tomas
Reyes used to be a utility spiker for UST where he won 3 titles as a player. As a coach, he has handled a lot of stars in the junior ranks before they became household names, including Alyssa Valdez, Kim Fajardo, sisters Dindin and Jaja Santiago, when he was an assistant to Francis Vicente.
One of his best moments came in 2013 when he coached the Junior Tigresses to the title. Two years later, he took over the UST program that has seen a resurgence with the likes of Sisi Rondina, Eya Laure, Dimdim Pacres, and Milena Alessandrini.
Will this be the year the Golden Tigresses romp back to the Finals with coach Kung Fu at the helm?
Oliver Almadro, Ateneo De Manila University
Coach O, as he is fondly called by his players, is one of the league’s best motivators on the floor. But that does not take away the tactical genius of Almadro, who steered the Ateneo Blue Eagles to the men's volleyball Finals for 5 straight years.
He turned a struggling men's team into the powerhouse that it is now, before taking over the head coaching position of the Lady Eagles following Tai Bundit’s exit.
Few expected the Lady Eagles to finish on top of the heap at 12-2 entering the Final Four, but it is a testament to how much Almadro has shaped one of the youngest teams in the league into a formidable force.
His success is not surprising as this former Letran varsity player also had La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus as his mentor when he started coaching.
Ramil De Jesus, De La Salle University
There's no doubt that Ramil De Jesus has built a volleyball empire in La Salle.
He is one of the winningest coaches in the country with an incredible 246-65 win-loss record. Not only that, he has 10 championships under his belt and a long line of stars who are proud to have been mentored by him – from Manilla Santos, Maureen Penetranter, Desiree Hernandez, Chi Saet, Iris Ortega-Patrona, who were under him when the sport started to boom, to Jacq Alarca, Michele Gumabao, Aby Maraño, Kim Fajardo, and Cha Cruz, to the current crop of standouts.
Arguably, he has the best program in the country and his rings more than do the talking.
The Final Four starts this Saturday, May 4, with the Ateneo-FEU match at 4 pm. UST and DLSU collide in the other pairing on Sunday, May 5, also at 4 pm.
Catch all the action live only on ABS-CBN S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, via livestreaming on sports.abs-cbn.com and iWant Sports. – Rappler.com