MVPs in sports are often determined through success and gaudy stats. Triple-double machines, hat-trick scorers, tenacious defenders are often the top candidates for the highest individual accolade in the game.
Dawn Macandili puts a whole new twist to the MVP conversation.
Yes, check out the stat sheet in any F2 Logistics Cargo Movers or De La Salle University Lady Spikers game and her name is decorated with double-digit digs and receptions. But confining Dawn’s impact with numbers would be doing her an injustice.
Count the many times she had to push teammates into proper receiving position when the ball gets served. Try to check how many times she covered for a backliner who’s been having passing problems or a blocker who was tooled or fooled by an opposing dropball.
Better yet, try to remember the times that Dawn launched herself in mid-air, flying parralel to the floor, taking the punishment of digging a spike from some of the most elite players and strongest imports this country has ever seen.
Dawn Nicole Macandili, First of her name, Queen of Floor Defense, Miss Everywhere, Mother of Digs and Service Reception, and former PSL All-Filipino Conference MVP, is a woman who stands out because she lets nothing stand in her way. No matter how hard the hits, how painful the dives, she gets up and gets back to work.
Ball is life
Dawn takes an immense amount of punishment as the premier defensive anchor for F2 Logistics. Her medals of honor are the countless bruises, floor burns, and other aches and pains that come with the responsibility.
“Mahirap po bumangon,” she says about the mornings after games. “Pero lahat naman po siguro ng players napapagod. Kakambal ng pagiging atleta ang pagod.”
That type of beating, coupled with the schedule as a student-athlete, should give anyone justification for rest. But the defensive dynamo chooses to soldier on, something ingrained in the DNA of the Lady Spikers.
“After ng laro, kinabukasan babangon sa umaga para mag training ulit. Para ma-correct pa yung mga mali at kulang sa sarili at sa team.”
This type of relentlessness has allowed her to strengthen La Salle’s reputation as one of the most feared defenses in college volleyball, like Melissa Gohing did before her. This type of relentlessness also helped her transform into arguably the top floor defender in the Philippine Superliga.
“At first po kinakabahan ako kasi I’m finally part of a higher form of volleyball,” she says of her first taste of PSL action, when Dawn represented the Meralco Power Spikers alongside Kim Fajardo, Mika Reyes, and veterans like Cha Cruz and Paneng Mercado.
They were essentially a college team competing with seasoned pros, stars who have banded together to form dynastic teams, and they only had a handful of wins to show for it.
“I can really say that the level of play between the UAAP and PSL are very different. For me, personally, I believe that UAAP is a battle of the pride of each university you represent while in the PSL, regardless of which school you came from, it is now a battle of wit or court IQ that you have accumulated in your career.”
The exposure that Dawn and the rest of the Lady Spikers got in their maiden PSL stint made them battle-hardened spikers – a disciplined, determined, and cohesive unit that has gone against supreme competition – and with this confidence, they took home another UAAP Women’s volleyball championship. And like any Ramil De Jesus-mentored team, Dawn and the Lady Spikers were aiming their arrows at their next target.
Dawn the MVP
“Totoo ba?!” was the first thought that hit Dawn when she was awarded the Most Valuable Player of the 2016 Philippine Superliga All Filipino Conference, where the F2 Logistics were crowned champions. Hey, Steve Harvey could have read the announcement and the league still would not get it wrong; Dawn Macandili became the first libero in PSL history to win MVP.
“I couldn’t fathom my emotions at the time. Everything was surreal and I thought that at anytime they would actually tell me that they have mistakenly announced me as MVP.”
The hard-working floor defender, after the pain of losing in their initial foray into the PSL, has transformed into a dynamic force, thanks to the exposure to a different level of play and competition, something that Dawn considered a challenge.
“Although we are not representing the Philippines per se, but I feel that I am carrying my Filipino pride whenever I dig or receive the ball from the foreigners. In my head, I say that we Filipinos can also play to their level. So every time I do, get that ball up, I feel a sense of accomplishment for our team and also our country.”
In a sport that is usually dominated by tall towers and high flyers, it was Dawn Macandili who turned heads and stood out for the national volleyball team that competed in the 2017 Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship. She was awarded the 2nd Best Libero, joining Asian superstars like South Korea’s Kim Yeon-Koung, Japan’s Risa Shinnabe, and Thailand’s Nootsara Tomkom who took home their respective individual awards. Macandili shone the brightest when the Philippines defeated Vietnam in four sets.
“Akala ko before, hala mga top teams kalaban namin dito… noong na-experience ko na nasa loob ako ng court sabi ko, teka volleyball lang itong pinag-uusapan natin. It’s anybody’s game.”
National team head coach Francis Vicente said, “Yan ang tunay na Dawn Macandili,” after the big victory, validating a statement made by Japanese coach Akiyoshi Kawamoto of the Okayama Seagulls about Macandili: “You will be a world-class player. Your play is at par with Japan.”
In her mentor’s eyes
“Sa dinadami dami ng coach, napakswerte ko. Kasi sa akin siya napunta.”
Ask any former and current De La Salle University Lady Spiker, and they will say that Coach Ramil De Jesus is a man who is thrifty giving out praise, but generous about mentorship. His words are usually lessons for improvement for his players, but deep in his heart, he oozes with pride and joy as he looks at his players succeed on and off the court. His heart overflows when recalling Dawn’s volleyball journey, from being a transferee from De La Salle Lipa to De La Salle Zobel,into the solid defensive anchor for the Lady Spikers and F2 Logistics.
“Second stringer ko pa yan dati nung high school tapos nung college, mas ahead sa kanya sina Cienne Cruz at Rochelle Sison. Pero kahit dati, nakita ko nang marunong yung bata at gusto mag-improve.”
While he was a hardened tactician during training, Coach Ramil remained a doting father-figure as he watched over Dawn and noticed her work ethic. “Tuwing magpa-practice, all out siya. Inaral din niya mga senior niya, nakita niya paano mag-hagis ng katawan para lang i-angat ang bola. Kaya yan, natuto siya, nag-improve siya.”
More importantly, Coach Ramil is impressed with Dawn’s competitive spirit.
“Sa laro, kung makikita mo lang, naiiyak nga yan pag nakikita niyang di ma-angat yung bola o di nakukuha yung second ball. Grabe ang mentality sa defense. Sinasabi ko nga sa team, yan, ganiyan dapat kayo dumepensa.”
He remains Dawn’s biggest fan, something he couldn’t hide as he flashed his dimpled smile when Macandili won MVP in the PSL and 2nd Best Libero in the AVC. “Tuwang-tuwa ako kasi yung MVP as libero first ever yan, tapos nung AVC nagbunga sipag at tiyaga niya.”
As with any mentor and father figure, what Coach Ramil de Jesus wants is to see Dawn become more than a volleyball MVP – he wants to see her become an even better person.
“Di talaga ako mahilig pumuri, alam ng mga player ko yan. Pero gusto ko lang sabihin, lalo na kay Dawn, na nasa tamang landas siya. Masipag sa volleyball, masipag na estudyante, mabait na anak, mabuting teammate at kaibigan. Proud ako sa kanya.”