From Bella Belen and Angel Canino’s fiery exchanges to Fifi Sharma’s swaggering blocks, the UAAP Season 85 Women’s Volleyball finals will go down in the tournament’s history as one of the most thrilling yet.
Filled with high-octane action, edge-of-the-seat scenes, and a lot of swag and staredowns, the UAAP Season 85 Women’s Volleyball finals showcased the best of National University’s (NU) Lady Bulldogs and De La Salle University’s (DLSU) Lady Spikers. With over 20,000 fans in attendance at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, the energy was palpable as the two powerhouse teams battled it out in a captivating two-game series. From thrilling rallies to record-breaking performances, the unforgettable highlights of the finals will not only get you excited about the next chapter of UAAP volleyball but also of the future of Philippine volleyball.
NU WINNING FIRST SET
After conquering the DLSU Lady Spikers in UAAP Season 84, the NU Lady Bulldogs faced a challenging road this year. The Spikers ruthlessly swept them 3-0 in the first two rounds of Season 85. That’s why their first set win in the finals’ opening game against La Salle was an epic moment, marking their triumphant breakthrough against their fierce rivals.
BELLA BELEN’S SLOMO TURN
And of course, the definitive highlight of the NU vs. DLSU finals game was the series of Michaela “Bella” Belen and Angel Canino’s exchange of sporty sass and attitude, which kept the fans captivated until the final whistle. Here’s Bella Belen making a Catriona Gray-esque slomo turn after a successful attack. The former rookie MVP never lost this kind of energy, just like when she confidently dug a spike from Angel. Just queen of the court things.
ANGEL CANINO’S STAREDOWN
Let’s not forget the unstoppable force that is Angel Canino, this season’s MVP and rookie of the year. Not to be outdone, Angel had her own arsenal of fiery replies during the electrifying finals, including an iconic shot of her exuding champion attitude after an epic rally. Her skill and determination were on full display, proving exactly why she earned her title as a rookie MVP.
BELLA VS. ANGEL MEMES
The dynamic between Bella and Angel in the UAAP Season 85 women’s finals not only captivated fans but also inspired some hilarious memes. While their fierce exchanges on the court were already a thrill to watch, fans couldn’t resist poking fun at the iconic moments between the two. Some couldn’t help but be thoroughly entertained by the spectacle, and it’s safe to say that the memes perfectly captured the essence of the thrilling showdown.
THE HISTORIC DUO
As Angel herself would say, the intense staredowns and sassy attitudes that she and Bella showcased on the court were all just part of the game, nothing personal. And when the finals were over, the two took the time to share some sweet and adorable moments together, proving the genuine friendship they have outside the court. They’re truly a historic pair to root for, as Angel and Bella are the only rookie-MVPs in UAAP history thus far. Their skill and sportsmanship are matched only by their camaraderie, making them a dynamic duo that fans will continue to admire and support for seasons to come.
FRIENDSHIP THAT GOES WAY BACK
And did you know that this friendship goes way back before Bella and Angel became the star players of their respective universities? In this throwback photo, you’ll see Bella and Angel together with now Lady Bulldogs players Alyssa Solomon, Sheena Toring, Erin Pangilinan, and Camilla Lamina back when they’re all part of the junior national team. It’s heartwarming to see how their bond has grown over the years, from their early days as aspiring athletes to now, as top-notch competitors in the UAAP.
LA SALLE’S REDEMPTION ARC
In a stunning turn of events, the championship trophy returned to Taft as the Lady Spikers executed a remarkable reverse sweep, dethroning the Lady Bulldogs in what is arguably one of the most thrilling and astonishing finals series in UAAP history. And not only did they capture their 12th championship, the green-clad players also dominated this season’s special awards.
Aside from her MVP and Rookie of the Year honors, Angel Canino emerged as the second-best outside spiker of the season, closely trailing her senior teammate, Jolina Dela Cruz. Meanwhile, Thea Gagate maintained her reign as the tournament’s best middle blocker for the second consecutive year. It was a significant moment for Thea, who, after a service error in last season’s championship, sealed the finals with the championship point. And lastly, Mars Alba was recognized as this year’s best setter and finals MVP, showcasing her exceptional skills and leadership throughout the intense competition.
THE BULLDOG SPIRIT
Despite coming up short in their bid to defend their championship, the NU Lady Bulldogs demonstrated their true championship spirit by accepting their defeat with grace and a healthy dose of humor. However, one thing is certain – the queens of Jhocson remain an incredibly formidable team that will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the UAAP tournament. With their skill, tenacity, and never-say-die attitude, they are sure to come back stronger and more determined to reclaim their throne in the seasons to come.
In addition to Bella and Angel, there were other players who also stood out during the UAAP finals. One of them is Fifi Sharma, one of the strongest Taft Towers who embodied the essence of “swag” throughout the series, showcasing her might with every block and attack she unleashed. It’s evident that the winning attitude runs in the Sharma family, as Fifi followed in the footsteps of her father, Carlo Sharma, a former Archer and PBA player. In a remarkable parallel, Fifi was named the best player of the game in the second finals match, just as her father achieved the same feat two decades ago.
THE ALYSSA EFFECT
Another player who reached some great heights this season is last year’s best opposite spiker Alyssa Solomon. Affectionately called as the “gentle giant,” Alyssa recorded a whopping 34 points in the finals’ do-or-die game, the second-most in UAAP women’s volleyball history. Yes, Alyssa did that, and who knows how she will rewrite the history of UAAP volleyball in the future.
LADY SPIKERS’ ATES
Amongst those who gave their support to the DLSU Lady Spikers at the jam-packed MOA Arena were the former Archers and now pro-players Mika Reyes, Des Cheng, Kianna Dy, and Aby Maraño among others. In one instance after the championship match, Tyang Aby and Kianna were like proud ates as they celebrated with the Season 85 champions.
Thank you for representing the gold and blue, Jen Nierva, Princess Robles and Joyme Cagande. You may not graduate as a champion, but we know we will see you again with a GOLD medal and trophy in the pros. Nothing but love and mad respect for all of you. Onto the next! pic.twitter.com/KDXzminGGa— ً (@saintnierva) May 15, 2023
The UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball finals also marked the end of an era for some of NU’s finest players who have made an indelible impact on the team’s collegiate performance. Season 84 Finals MVP and team captain Princess Robles, former best libero Jennifer Nierva, and setter Joyme Cagande will all be bidding farewell to the UAAP. However, this is far from the end for these talented athletes as we eagerly anticipate the next chapter of their promising professional careers. Though their presence will be missed in the collegiate scene, their legacy and contributions will be remembered and celebrated as they embark on new challenges and continue to showcase their skills in the realm of professional volleyball.
Cess Robles finding Mars Alba— Slaymie Provido (@providology) May 14, 2023
Jen Nierva and Mars Alba
Thea Gagate and Sheena Toring
Maicah Larroza and to her former teammates
Too much going on. I love the sportsmanship and camaraderie between these two teams.#ArrowsAblazeDLSU #12ebuildTheDynastyDLSU #UAAPSeason85 pic.twitter.com/HVn20Kwg75
Undoubtedly, one of the most heartwarming aspects of the entire finals series is the way the girls always conclude each game on a positive and uplifting note. Whether it’s through heartfelt embraces, engaging in little chitchats, or exchanging humorous gestures, the Lady Spikers and Lady Bulldogs truly exemplify the essence of sportsmanship. They embody the true spirit of what sports is all about—camaraderie, respect, and a shared love for the game. It’s a testament to their character and serves as a beautiful reminder that, beyond the fierce competition, the bonds formed and the moments shared are what make sports truly special.
THE FUTURE OF PHILIPPINE VOLLEYBALL
If there’s something that this year’s UAAP season assures us, it’s that the future of Philippine volleyball is looking vibrant. With the immense talent of the players from both teams, making histories and record-breaking wins, it’s comforting to know that these young Lady Spikers and Lady Bulldogs will pave the way for the better future of local volleyball. Bella Belen and Angel Canino in the national team? We’re ready for it.