Setters are the engine on which a team runs. They are the coach’s extension, the brain making all the weapons of a volleyball team function.
That was proven true in the Akari Nationals, when teams with smart and impressive setters made it to the playoffs, and to some, even to the championship round.
Let’s look at seven playmakers who caught our eyes from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao:
7. Mafe Galanza, San Pedro Relocation Center National HS
The youngest sister of Adamson wunderkind Jema made a name of her own in the Southern Luzon finals, leading SPRCNHS all the way to the Last Dance, where they lost to Holy Rosary College.
Galanza was her team’s steadying force, and while she can use a little more height to improve her blocking and a little more speed to better her footwork, the Grade 12 student showed potential.
6. Venice Puzon, Holy Rosary College
With powerful spikers like Trisha Genesis, Aliah Marce and Maveth Torres, it’s a feast for Puzon whenever she sets.
And that is what exactly the petite Puzon did in the Southern Luzon and National finals, as she masterfully controlled her team’s attack en route to a championship and a silver-medal finish.
At around 5-foot-2, it’s tough for the Southern Luzon MVP to crack the collegiate ranks. But who knows, she might follow the footsteps of top setters-turned-liberos in Cath Pollentes, Gizelle Tan and to an extent, Carmel Saga.
5. Euna Gene Piosca, Central Philippine University
Piosca is a legend of her own in Iloilo and Western Visayas, where she has won numerous titles with the Golden Lions.
We were witnesses to her greatness in the Visayas leg, as she pushed her team to the championship round. She’s quick to make decisions, possesses a deft touch and knows her opponent’s defensive patterns.
At just around 5-foot-2, it’s tough to see Piosca making it to the UAAP. The NCAA could do, but if not, watch her weave her magic in the PRISAA Nationals for CPU even in college.
4. Nikka Yandoc, Jose Rizal Institute
Even without a go-to spiker in the mold of Rachelle Roldan or a veteran like Raven Vargas, Yandoc was able to lead JRI to the Central Luzon Final Four and Bataan to the 2018 Palarong Pambansa in Vigan.
Chalk it up to the Grade 12 setter’s solid decision-making and vocal leadership skills. She has that swag college teams are looking for in a lead playmaker. That’s why Adamson quickly came calling after the Akari Nationals.
Fortunately for the Lady Falcons, she said yes.
3. Maji Mangulabnan, University of Santo Tomas
Mangulabnan is probably the most popular setter to set her foot in the Akari Nationals this year, as she’s been a fixture in UST’s rotation in the UAAP juniors volleyball tournament and even in the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference before.
The Batangas native lived up to the hype, leading UST’s Team B all the way to the National Finals, where they finished fourth.
Even without going full force, Mangulabnan showed why at least half of the UAAP are going after her services in the collegiate ranks with her above-average playmaking, veteran smarts and heavy serves.
2. Marianne Sotomil, Bacolod Tay Tung
Sotomil figured in several interesting duels throughout the Akari Nationals, first facing Piosca in the Visayas finals before taking on Basarte in the National Semifinals and then Mangulabnan in the Battle for Third.
Each time, the Pavia, Iloilo native displayed her poise and the ability to push a team of relatively short spikers beyond their limits. She has the physical tools to make it to the UAAP and will definitely be one of the young setters to watch in Season 81.
1. Chenae Basarte, Hope Christian High School
Basarte, however, is the real deal.
NCR MVP. National Finals MVP. Need we say more?