Likes and spikes: Why the Philippines loves volleyball star Alyssa Valdez
Alyssa Valdez is a volleyball player on the Philippines' celebrity A-list.
Sparkling careers in high-school and college beach and indoor volleyball led to international recognition, professional contracts in three different countries, and a regular place on the national team as an outside hitter.
Big fame followed with an online reality show called 'Phenoms' starring Valdez and her boyfriend Kiefer Ravena, who plays basketball professionally in the PBA for the NLEX Road Warriors.
Alyssa and Kiefer became one of the Philippines' most prominent sporting power couples.
Recently the duo have been involved in a number of charitable initiatives, including raffling off her shoes to raise money for health workers in the Philippines, and setting up a training facility for aspiring young athletes, called Phenom Elite Training Academy.
Alyssa Valdez: Volleyball Gives Back
The captain of the local Creamline Cool Smashers volleyball team is trying to use her reach for good with the 'Volleyball Gives Back' initiative that tries to have a positive community impact.
Most recently Alyssa and other volleyball stars like Charo Soriano and Amanda Villanueva have been raising money and distributing personal protective equipment to frontline staff in hospitals in the face of the new coronavirus global pandemic.
Alyssa Valdez's early life
Alyssa was born on June 29, 1993 in San Juan, Batangas, in the Philippines to parents Ruel and Pablita.
Her dad works for a car company while mother Pablita is a public school teacher.
The only girl of four Valdez children, having three brothers was the making of her, as she competed against her older siblings in volleyball, with family rivalry driving her to get better.
Her first break came at the Southern Tagalog Athletic Association sports meet where she was recruited by the University of Santo Tomas Junior High School and there played for the UST Tigress Cubs, winning multiple high school tournaments.
Alyssa stood out, not just because she was tall, but also for her jump and athleticism.
She stretched to 1.75cm (5'9) and clocks a 305cm (120in) spike and a 280 cm (110in) block.
When asked who her sports idol is, she says "Michael Jordan all the way!"
Alyssa Valdez: Queen of University volleyball
In university Valdez' career took flight.
Representing the Ateneo Lady Eagles in Manila she won the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) 1st Conference title twice, the UAAP Season 76 and 77 volleyball tournaments and celebrated a host of other team triumphs.
With Ateneo she made it rain personal awards too: Best Scorer (four times), Best Server (three times), Season MVP (three times), and Finals MVP (once).
ABS-CBN Sports produced a documentary on her university journey, which has been watched over 2.6 million times.
International volleyball in Thailand and Taipei
In 2015, Valdez joined the PLDT Ultra Fast Hitters and was instrumental in their V-League Open Conference victory, beating the Philippine Army Lady Troopers in the final.
Valdez won the Best Outside Spiker and MVP awards, then the team defended their title the next conference finals, Alyssa racking up 25 points and bagging the Finals MVP award.
2016 saw the rising star move to the BaliPure Purest Water Defenders full time, her spectacular UAAP career having come to a close.
The team finished third, and Valdez transferred to the Bureau of Customs Transformers for the following V-League, where they ended up as runners-up. Valdez won the Conference MVP award.
Her talent couldn't be kept secret and international attention came, she opted to go to Thailand with 3BB Nakornnont, where she played for several months. Later, in September 2017, Valdez also spent three months with Attack Line, a team in Chinese Taipei.
But it wasn't long before she was back where she's most appreciated.
Alyssa Valdez and the Philippines Olympic dream
Taking that international experience home with her to the Philippines, Alyssa returned to the newly created Premier Volleyball League, with her current club the Creamline Cool Smashers.
She was made captain and rewarded that vote of confidence by playing brilliantly and winning the MVP award for the fourth time in her career, as well as the best outside spiker award.
The team won both the Reinforced and Open Conferences in 2018, and the Open Conference again in 2019.
But club success hasn't translated to international success with the Philippines national team.
No Philippine volleyball team, men's or women's, has ever qualified for the Olympics.
Alyssa Valdez has represented her country since U-16 level, but the team hasn't managed to qualify for major international tournaments.
She did win her first international medal at the 2014 ASEAN University Games held in Palembang, Indonesia, leading Ateneo to bronze.
But with the Philippines not entering the 2019 Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship which was also an Olympic qualifier, we won't see her play at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
For now Alyssa Valdez is playing the game she loves and using her platform to make the world a better place, helping and inspiring the next generation of volleyball stars.