Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Ateneo, LSGH hope to continue championship form for NBTC tourney

Ateneo, LSGH hope to continue championship form for NBTC tourney
by rick olivares

When the SM-NBTC National Finals tips off March 18, 2018 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, the champion teams from the NCAA and UAAP Juniors Division will feel a little pressure from their lay-off.

According to Ateneo Blue Eaglets coach Joe Silva whose wards capped off a memorable season with a nail-biting win over NU two weeks ago, he is going in with a pair of disadvantages. “When the UAAP ended two weeks ago, the boys immediately attended to their studies because it was finals week. And we haven’t practiced since then,” explained the two-time champion coach. “In fact, today (Thursday, March 15) will be our first and we won’t have Joaqui Manuel who is out with a fractured foot and Dave Ildefonso who is already practicing with NU.”

“We will be missing those two players but we are calling up Forthsky Padrigao to beef us up.”

Silva’s NCAA Juniors counterpart, Marvin Bienvenida of La Salle Greenhills, said that his team has been preparing for this tournament. “We have been preparing for this for the past two months,” admitted Bienvenida. “Honestly, we weren’t able to maintain our form after winning the NCAA. After a few weeks we were on a high. But we took losses in some other leagues and we needed that to get back on track. It has been an up and down journey for us but I am a little optimistic that we are slowly climbing up again.”

Reigning SM-NBTC champions San Beda are undergoing a massive facelift come tip-off time. “We are parading our Team B who will be moving up to the NCAA Team next season,” bared JB Sison. “This team were recently crowned as Breakdown Basketball Under-17 champions and although malaki yun, iba pa rin yung mayroon NCAA experience. Parang sila Sam Abuhijle and Evan Nelle years ago. When they started out sa NBTC, it was as Team B. Tatlong taon bago mag-champion dito sa NBTC so tignan natin.”

A returning squad to the annual high school national tournament that has adjusted its format similar to the US NCAA March Madness is Crossover Canada. Its Filipino head coach, Mike Cruz, hopes his team will perform better after not getting out of the first round in the past two years. “Of course, we expect to make a better show this year. We prepared longer although our problem is we do not have the core of the past few years, we hope the newcomers will make an impact.”

Only power forward Matthew Daves and guard Andrew Cruz remain from last year’s squad. “With the new format, hindi na kami mabibigla. We have time to adjust with the seeding then climb up the ladder.”

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Profile: The UP Lady Fighting Maroons’ Marian Buitre

Profile: The UP Lady Fighting Maroons’ Marian Buitre
by rick olivares

If you have been following Marian Buitre’s career with the UPWVT, you will have noticed that she has played all three front court positions – open, utility, and middle. It was only in the last year where she has settled in nicely patrolling that middle.

Like her volleyball skills – and the lass is still working on improving her game – Marian has a myriad of talents.

Although she doesn’t play in bands nowadays, during her high school days at St. Scholastica’s Marikina, Marian played guitar and bass in a band for summer concerts. They covered songs from Narda and Orange and Lemons to name a few.

With a busier schedule for college owing to volleyball training and matches, Buitre can only concentrate on her school work where she is taking up landscape architecture.

“Bata pa talaga ako hindi ko alam kung ano gusto ko,” she said. “Ang alam ko is yung artistic side or anything that is about art ang gusto ko. So maybe interior design?”

While that is for the future, right now, it’s volleyball that is on her mind. After all, you cannot play forever. The sport is a means to get an education and well, to earn money when she pursues her license. “Feeling ko when I graduate, mag pro-volleyball muna ako bago mag board exam. Then to save money din.”

Outside the UP team, Marian has also suited up for a team in the Philippine Super Liga; an experience that she says has opened her eyes to higher competition. “Ang nakita ko sa PSL ay hindi palakasan but pagalingan ng diskarte kasi veterans and katapat mo. Sa talino ang labanan. Sa UAAP, sino mas mabilis at mas aggressive ang nananalo. Sa PSL, pagmatalino ka maglaro maylaban ka. It is about placing and a different approach sa attacking.”

As the saying goes, “sports is a metaphor for life.”

Buitre has experienced the full gamut of emotions while playing for UP. She went from teams that weren’t winning and where hardly anyone watched. “Siyempre parang fulfilling yung ngayon (despite the sub-.500 record). Naabutan ko yung walang walang panalo at kami nagbabayad ng jerseys namin. Nung dumating ang batch ni Tots (Carlos), dumami na rin supporters.”

“Yung expectations na yan (as a team that should contend), I take it as a motivation,” bared Buitre. “It is a good kind of pressure.”

In their recent match against Katipunan avenue neighbors Ateneo, the Fighting Lady Maroons put up a better fight despite falling in three sets.

“Sinabi ni (assistant) coach Joyce (Palad) na nakita niya ngayon kahit talo nagtatawan kami at hindi mabigat,” she revealed about the post-match locker room discussion. “Unlike yung games before Ateneo, lahat heads down at walang pansinan. It is okay to lose but at least you go down fighting. Kapag nag-error kami or kapag nalamangan kami, lahat na rattle and di na nag communicate. Against Ateneo, lahat chill lang at lahat kami composed.”

The UPWVT built on the momentum of the game against Ateneo against UST where they came away with a huge win and gamely battled NU for its final assignment of the first round before falling. “Malayo pa ito,” pointed out Buitre. “Hindi pa tapos ito. We’re not even halfway. May chance pa rin to be able to reach the semis.”

Despite all the challenges that have beset the UPWVT, Marian believes it is all part of the learning curve. “For me, ang pinakamagandang naidulot sa paglaro sa UP is to work under pressure and to perform what is expected of me. And to work with different people. At hindi lang under pressure not just in sports but also in academics.”

“No regrets about anything. It’s just moving forward.”

Monday, March 5, 2018

6 points from the weekend UAAP Women’s Volleyball Matches

6 points from the weekend UAAP Women’s Volleyball Matches
by rick olivares

After 28 matches across a month’s time, National University is atop the table with a 6-1 record. They rebounded from their shock loss to FEU with a nervy three-set win over UP. The FEU Lady Tamaraws are now in second place with La Salle occupying third spot despite both of them sporting 5-2 slates.

Ateneo’s four-game win streak was snapped by La Salle and they fell to 4-3. Adamson’s up and down season saw them botch a golden opportunity to leap-frog Ateneo. Now they’re at fifth with a 3-4 record. UST and UOP tote 2-5 cards while UE finally barged into the win column with perhaps the upset game of the week following a five-set win over Adamson.

From these matches, we can glean six learnings.

Ateneo really needs to work on their floor defense.
First ball problems. Haven’t we heard that before? Ateneo has had problems with its floor defense since Denden Lazaro and Ella De Jesus graduated. And that was three years ago. How they have no solutions for that baffles me. Yes, they are tops in blocking but that is because of their tall frontline of Maddie Madayag, Bea De Leon, and Kat Tolentino. Yes, Dani Ravena has been a revelation considering she switched positions from setter to libero (her being out as she recuperates is going to give Ateneo more headaches) but I really have to wonder why this aspect of their game has not been resolved or even plugged. Did someone forget the memo that defense wins championships?

UST is on the verge of another frustrating and unfulfilled season.
I think it’s time people stop harping about injuries and who isn’t in the line-up. This is still a veteran crew. Not sure where they are morale-wise because they have been crumbling. Midway and the season is slipping away. It is good they’ll get back Milena Alessandrini this second round but to pin one’s hopes on a rookie is asking a bit too much. We’re looking for fire and focus because the skills aren’t the question.

Don’t look now but FEU has quietly stepped up to second in the league.
Looks like George Pascua has settled on Kyle Negrito as his starting setter and since being named as the team’s number one setter, her confidence has soared.

And if you look at their three-set win over sliding UST, no player scored in double figures. While at times that can be bad as it is an indication of a lack of a go-to player. In FEU’s case, it is the opposite. This team is stacked and loaded. There have been nervy losses this first round but how they come out this second round will tell on their fortunes. As always the concern for this team is their mental fortitude. If they can take it to the next level this second round, they’ll be a handful for all teams.

Watching Adamson play is like night and day.

That loss by Adamson to UE in five sets says a lot. They have become more competitive and have raised the level of their game. But as of now, they aren’t ready yet to boogie with the big teams. Yes, they defeated La Salle but that could be a one-off thing. If they can do it again then we can say they’re for real.

UP has turned a corner but that loss to NU can still send them on another spiral.
The Fighting Lady Maroons took it to NU and lost the first two sets because of errors. Had they taken a set there, it might have been a different result. The third set saw a disjointed team that seemed to revert to the one that back-slid in the middle of the first round.

The coaches must make sure this team quickly forgets that loss and they have to take the next game whoever it might be. Good vibes continue when there are positive results.

Lastly, UE could finally go on a tear.
Yes, they have played better this year. The growth has been painfully slow and it ultimately cost them head coach Francis Vicente. Under interim coach Rod Roque who is also UE’s representative to the UAAP board, this team has played better. Can we postulate better motivation? Because it sure has showed the past two games.

And the things is… UE had the personnel to win games. This is after all a veteran crew albeit an underachieving one. Their next game should be mighty interesting.