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Under construction: Newest Taft towers in Men’s Volleyball are soon to rise

After lackluster finishes in recent years, a new dynamic duo hopes to bring the Green Spikers to glory for seasons to come.

For over a decade already, the DLSU Green Spikers have failed to secure a Final Four slot.

But this Season 84, the Green-and-White has never been more eager to fly higher in the UAAP, given the squad’s additions for the upcoming seasons. With hopes of bringing glory to Taft, high school standouts 6’2” opposite spiker JM Ronquillo (III, SPM) and 6’2” outside hitter Noel Kampton (I, SPM) will be leading the rookie-laden pack through the steep path, hoping to cement DLSU as a championship contender in the league’s Men’s Volleyball tournament.

Choosing the Green-and-White

Both Kampton and Ronquillo are no strangers to the eyes of the volleyball community. Prior to college, the two played alongside each other as members of the Philippine team during the ninth and 10th ASEAN School Games back in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Since then, their volleyball careers went uphill.

Ronquillo shares that aside from DLSU, he was also scouted by National University (NU) and Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) during his high school years. After attending countless training sessions with several more UAAP schools, Ronquillo committed to DLSU as he felt “more comfortable and at home” with the Taft-based squad.

Despite fans only having a glimpse of his ability, Ronquillo’s debut game against Ateneo in Season 82 was rather impressive, topping the scoreboard for DLSU with 11 points. Although it was rather a short stint following the season’s cancellation shortly after, Ronquillo’s will to lift DLSU remains. With competitors stacking up on new additions as well, he will be tested to see if his willpower can translate to success for the team.

Highly anticipated rookie Kampton is also one to watch out for as he boasts several titles and awards under his belt. Not only was he scouted by all eight UAAP schools, but he also had all NCAA teams try to recruit him, showing how much of an asset he would be to any team he joins. But Kampton wasted no time and energy to bring his talents to Taft.

Like Ronquillo, Kampton also expresses that he had good feelings at Enrique M. Razon Sports Center when he and his high school team first stepped on the court and played an exhibition match against the Green Spikers.

However, Kampton emphasizes that it is not just volleyball that made him choose La Salle. He also considered the quality of education, his teammates, the desire to make it to the Final Four, and the ever-consistent head coach of the Green Spikers, Arnold Laniog. Kampton shares that he was already being invited by Laniog to be a part of his team ever since he was in elementary when they met at a commercial league. “Mabait si coach Arnold eh, wala akong masasabi…Para siyang tatay na namin sa team,” says the rookie outside hitter.

(Coach Arnold is really kind. I do not have anything bad to say about him. He’s like a father to us in the team.)

Keeping an eye out for the team

As the team is currently composed of youngsters, Kampton sees how determined his teammates are in training. He also mentions how the new recruits are individually talented and competitive—much like how they were known for in high school. Kampton attributes this to them having played for the Junior National team and athletic associations like the NCAA.

On the same note, Ronquillo is also eager about the team’s current lineup. He points out how everyone is expected to play well as the players came from functional teams, “Mas marami kami ngayon…’yung bench namin ngayon talagang kayang makipagbakbakan sa loob.

(We’re greater in number now. Our bench can definitely take over the starting six if need be.)

Also with seniors Keiffer Reyes, JD Delos Reyes, and Wayne Marco exiting the team, most players in the current lineup have not trained with each other given the restrictions brought by the global health crisis.

With volleyball being highly dependent on teams having a strong bond, establishing this as early as possible is crucial. However, not everything can be achieved in online training sessions. “Magiging teammates [kami] nang ilang years, so dapat kahit on and off, kahit hindi magkitakita, may [chemistry] pa rin dapat…para mas maging solid ‘yung team,” Ronquillo remarks.

(We will be teammates for a couple of years, so even if we do not see each other, we should still have chemistry so that our unit is more solid.)

Kampton comments that they only need to gel more as a team to become ready to compete against the other universities.

Aiming higher

If it were not cut short, Ronquillo claims that the previous season could have been the chance for the Green Spikers to return to the Final Four. But with all the preparations the players have been going through in the last two years—coupled with the trust they have in the skills of their teammates—Ronquillo and Kampton assert that the Green Spikers can claim a semifinals berth and eventually the championship trophy for seasons to come. Although it remains to be seen, this feat is possible as the towering duo both still have five playing years left under their names.

Kampton is firm that he wants to give La Salle a championship—and awards would not matter to him so long as this championship goal is made a reality. Despite having no indoor Men’s Volleyball tournament this season, he will start his mission in the sands with Vince Maglinao and Andre Espejo, as they are set to compete in the upcoming UAAP Men’s Beach Volleyball tournament starting May 27. “We are kinda late sa preparation pero nag double time kami,” Kampton admits as they gear up for the upcoming tournament.

As the pandemic pulled every team on equal footing, the Green Spikers have a huge chance of realizing the team’s over-a-decade-long dream. With the team’s determination and the players’s eagerness, a slot in the Final Four will not be impossible for the Taft-based team. After all, one of the most notable characteristics of a formidable athlete is their never-say-die mindset and how willing they are to push themselves in training and in actual games.

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