The highly-anticipated first day match of the Season 78 UAAP women’s volleyball tournament between Ateneo Lady Eagles and National University Lady Bulldogs ended prematurely, as what many pundits expected to be a gruesome back-and-forth battle turned into a quick three-set sweep by the defending champions.
The NU Lady Bulldogs took quick early leads in the initial two sets of the match. The first set had them ahead, 16-11, while in the second they jumped to a 15-9 lead. Both sets had NU proceed to tumble under the weight of a formidable Ateneo squad. The result? The Lady Bulldogs crumbling in the third set for a straight-sets loss to Ateneo, 25-21, 25-19, 25-14.
Despite the early loss, NU team captain Myla Pablo is still upbeat about the team’s chances this season. There are, however, some things within the team that need to be addressed. And the loss may prove to be beneficial to the team as they have pinpointed their problems early on.
“Yung nangyari ngayon kailangan namin i-adjust ng mabuti. Adjust nalang kung ano yung mangyari sa next game against Adamson,” she said.
First and foremost, the team need to be able to maintain their composure throughout the whole match. The nerves brought about by playing in such a big game proved fatal against a cool-headed Ateneo team.
“Siguro nandoon nanaman yung pag-rattle namin sa loob ng court. Nag kanya kanya nalang kami sa loob ng court, hindi kami nag-uusap,” shared Pablo.
Second, something that has been plaguing head coach Roger Gorayeb for years now, is the lack of a consistent setter. In NU’s lineup, there are three setters in the team, rookie Rica Diolan, and veterans Jocelyn Soliven and Ivy Perez.
The problem is that while each setter brings different things to the table, each also has glaring weaknesses that have to be fixed. Diolan lacks the experience of playing in the collegiate ranks, Soliven becomes a handicap once she rotates to the back row, and Perez is unable to consistently set up her teammates for attacks.
“Kaya nahabol kami siguro kasi wala masyadong play yung setter namin, puro open, kwatro. Siyempre nababasa ng kalaban yun so nabloblock kami. Ang gusto ni coach Roger, maganda yung play. Medyo napagod din (yung attackers), kasi puro open, backline.”
Also, the team needs to utilize Jaja Santiago more.
“Si Jaja hindi namin na maximize kanina,” shared Pablo. Santiago, at roughly 6’5 in height, towers over every other player in the league. “Wala naman makaka-block kay Jaja eh. Pero wala kaming magandang receive, walang magandang set, so puro open nalang. Napagod kami. Sabi nga namin, pag magandang receive, si Jaja ima-maximize namin.”
Both Santiago and Pablo pitched in 11 points each in the loss. No other Bulldog scored in double-digits.
Aside from these, Pablo was very critical of the way she had played in the game. When asked about her performance, had this to say:
“Actually ngayon medyo hindi (ako masaya). Kasi ngayon nahihirapan ako ngayon as a team captain. Yung laro ko sa ibang liga parang di ko ma-apply kasi iniisip ko yung mga teammates ko. Parang pangalawa lang ako sa iniisip ko para makapaglaro ng maayos (yung teammates ko). Sobra kasi ang dami kong iniisip eh. Sa loob ng court pag na-down yung isa, kailangan iaangat mo. So ako naman hindi ko naiisip sarili ko.” she said.
She was quick to add, however, that she fully plans on bouncing back from her poor performance. “Pero ngayon, yung laro ko ngayon, hindi pa yun yung laro ko talaga. Sabi nga ni coach Roger first game pa lang naman eh. Marami pa namang games eh.”
With that said, Pablo hopes the team will be able to quickly remedy the issues they currently face, especially as this will be her last playing year in the UAAP.
“Iniisip ko na last playing year ko na, so kailangan ibigay yung best ko.”
The NU Lady Bulldogs will attempt to rebound in their next match against the Adamson Lady Falcons on Saturday, February 6, 4pm at the Philsports Arena.