By Jean Malanum

MEN’S TITLE. UST’s Joshua Ybañez (right) scores on a spike during their final match against Cignal in the Philippine National Volleyball Federation Challenge Cup at Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila on Saturday (Nov. 25, 2023). UST won, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 15-13, to rule the tournament. (PNVF photo)

MANILA – University of Santo Tomas (UST) overcame a tough Cignal team, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 15-13, to pocket the men’s title in the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) Challenge Cup at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila on Saturday night. 

Joshua Ybañez led the Growling Tigers with 26 points and was named tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP). 

“I still can’t believe we won against a top team Cignal,” said the 20-year-old Ybañez, the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 85 Rookie of the Year-MVP. 

“But we won because of teamwork and of course, our coaches,” the 5-foot-6 talent from General Santos City added. 

Ybañez also claimed the First Best Outside Hitter award to join teammates Rey Miguel De Vega (Second Best Outside Hitter), Edlyn Paul Colinares (Second Best Middle Blocker) and Sherwin Umandal (Best Opposite Spiker) in the Super Team. 

The other awardees were JP Bugaoan (First Best Middle Blocker) and Manuel Sumanguid III (Best Libero) of Cignal, and Jerome Lopez (Best Setter) of third-placer VNS Asereht. 

VNS beat National University (NU), 32-34, 23-25, 26-24, 25-23, 15-13, to settle for the bronze medal. 

“It’s part of our preparations for UAAP and evaluation of our updated playing system style. And this championship validated all of our system,” UST mentor Odjie Mamon, who also coaches the national men’s team, said. 

The women’s title went to College of Saint Benilde (CSB), which pulled off a 25-18, 25-18, 25-13 win over University of the Philippines (UP). 

“We joined the Challenge Cup to gear up for the NCAA and we’re very glad we won. We’re all inspired and boosted ahead of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association),” coach Gerry Yee said. 

CSB’s Wielyn Estoque was named MVP and Best Outside Hitter. 

The other awardees were Zamantha Nolasco (First Best Middle Blocker), Chenae Basarte (Best Setter) and Fiona Getigan (Best Libero) of CSB; Niña Ytang (Second Best Middle Blocker) and Stephanie Bustrillo (Best Opposite Spiker) of UP; and Lea Rizel Tapang (Second Best Outside Hitter) of Letran, which secured the bronze medal after beating Philippine Air Force, 25-15, 25-23, 25-19. 

NU received the Fair Play Green Card. 

PNVF president Ramon Suzara thanked the 36 teams that joined the federation’s second-to-last major tournament for the year. 

“It’s been an exciting close to three weeks of volleyball action and I appreciate the enthusiasm of the athletes and teams who came from all over the country,” he said.

PNVF secretary general Don Caringal and national team commission chair Tonyboy Liao and Cignal president and chief executive officer Jane Basas also graced the awarding ceremony. (PNA)