Dawn Macandili named one of the SPIN.ph Sports Heroes of 2017
Diminutive Dawn Macandili hit new heights in 2017. Jaime Campos

[Editors' note: Beginning with this piece, SPIN.ph bares its Top 10 Sports Heroes of 2017 leading up to the announcement of our 2017 Sportsman of the Year]

THE break of dawn.

FOR the past four years, SPIN.ph's yearend list was adorned by celebrated volleybelles like Alyssa Valdez, who won the award after leading a then rookie-laden Ateneo team to the UAAP title in 2014, and National University star Jaja Santiago, who was bestowed the honor in 2016.

In a welcome change, SPIN.ph is honoring an underrated, non-scoring player who nevertheless is an acknowledged game-changer in Dawn Macandili, La Salle's fearless libero.

There's no doubt she is just as deserving. 

Although you hardly see her name in the stats sheet in terms of points scored, the entire team’s offense lives and dies on how she performs.

While most fans appreciate how masterfully a ball was spiked or emphatically blocked, Macandili’s efforts to keep alive an almost hopeless play would often go unnoticed - until the 2017 AVC Asian Women’s Seniors Championship in September.

The pint-sized libero, who was first listed as reserve for the Southeast Asian Games, proved to be worthy of a spot in the final roster.

Macandili not only made the Filipino crowd proud but she also earned the respect of her Asian counterparts as she was named Asia’s second best libero behind Kobata Mako of Japan.

“Nakaka-amaze kasi ‘yung, parang training ka lang nang training, tapos gusto ko lang naman makatulong sa team para hindi bumagsak ang bola tapos may nakaka-recognize pala ng ganoon, parang nagpe-payoff pala siya (ang efforts ko),” said Macandili.

The crowd inside the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan, Laguna was up on its feet to salute the Batangas native for the rare feat. Truly a proud moment for Philippine volleyball.

Macandili, no more than five feet tall, also vowed to hit new heights.

“Hindi naman natatapos 'yan sa awards eh, gusto ko talaga maglaro and magawa ang passion ko which is volleyball,” she said. “So ang award na 'yan parang reward lang 'yan sa mga players and patuloy lang akong maglalaro para sa team ko and sa Philippines.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @meilinspin