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Carino reflects on CSB’s unlikely championship run

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Two seasons ago, when Michael Cariño first saw the Lady Blazers whom he was about to coach, he wasn’t sure what sport they wanted him to coach. 

“Akala ko nga mga sumo team ‘yung i-cocoach ko,” Carino recalled. “Ang tataba nila. Pero after three months nagbago na lahat. Chinallenge ko sila na kunin natin ‘yung mga hindi nakukuha ng Benilde dati.”

A team that had no aspirations to excel suddenly played with a purpose. In Season 89, Benilde reached the Final Four after a prolonged absence, with an 8-1 elimination round record, only to be eliminated in the Final Four via the quotient system. The Lady Blazers again waxed hot in the Season 90 elimination phase with a 7-2 record, but again fell short in the post-season due to point differential.

This season, the Lady Blazers were set for a huge let down, going 6-3 in the elimination round and owing all their losses to their fellow Final Four contenders. That they were placed at the bottom of a proverbial stepladder, and needed to win against two powerhouse teams to make their Finals debut, didn’t help.

“Ang motivation talaga namin is talunin lahat ng mga nakatalo sa amin noong elimination round. One game at a time lang. Basta mabawian namin sila,” said Cariño.

Benilde embarked on a dramatic run, first taking out the Perpetual Help Lady Altas who are coached by Cariño’s mentor, Sammy Acaylar. Then, they overwhelmed the defending champs Arellano Lady Chiefs, clinching a Finals ticket. Facing the thrice-to-beat San Sebastian Lady Stags in the Finals, CSB only then felt they had what it took to win a championship.

“One game at a time lang talaga kami. Ang nasa isip lang namin ‘yung next namin na kalaban. Pagdating lang namin ng Finals, saka namin naisip ‘yung championship. Nandito na rin lang kami, hindi na namin ito ibibigay kahit pa dejado kami,” told Carino.

The Lady Blazers proceeded to remove the Lady Stags’ bite. In the first two matches, CSB executed a game plan to keep the Lady Stags’ star, Grethcel Soltones, in check while demoralizing her teammates with their blocking and floor defense. CSB took the first two matches and repeated their magic in a pivotal Game Four, overcoming SSC’s thrice-to-beat advantage and making history.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Carino reflects on CSB's unlikely championship run

“Hindi talaga namin naexpect na magcha-champion kami. I’m just really happy for my team na natupad nila ‘yung promise na magdadala ng unang championship sa school. This means so much to us na masuklian lahat ng binibigay sa amin ng school,” Carino reflected.

Benilde also became only the second school in local collegiate sports to dump a team with a thrice-to-beat advantage. The Ateneo Lady Eagles did it first in UAAP Season 76.

“Pareho talaga sa Ateneo kasi nadala din ng Ateneo ‘yung unang championship ng school nila noon (Season 76). It’s nice na kasama na ‘yung bata ko sa history na ‘yun.”

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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