Dante Alinsunurin has been living volleyball his whole life. A former player himself, he coached the NU Bulldogs to back-to-back UAAP championships in Season 75-76, and helped the team reach the finals of Season 77 where they eventually fell to the Ateneo Blue Spikers.
Coach Dante’s team now looks totally different from the Bulldogs we saw during their championship reign. A total of six players from last year have either graduated or finished their playing years. The imposing Peter Torres is no longer with the team, as well as the steady Berlin Paglinawan. Outside hitter Edwin Tolentino and Rueben Inaudito have also graduated from the school.
Brandishing a multitude of rookies in their new lineup, the team looks to Fauzi Ismail and team captain Vince Mangulabnan to lead them back into title contention. Mangulabnan is on his last year of eligibility and Ismail, who had a stellar first round in the last UAAP season but was benched after Paglinawan’s reinstatement, is now the team’s most deadly scoring option.
In an interview with Tiebreaker Times, coach Dante expressed that the players shouldn’t just focus on volleyball. “Ang sabi ko sa kanila hindi lang sila magfocus sa paglalaro, kundi sa labas din, lalo na sa Pag-aaral nila,” shared the coach. “Kasi yung volleyball hindi lahat madadala yan pagkatapos ng college, pero yung pag-aaral mo magagamit mo pa yan sa trabaho.”
With such a young squad, the coach decided not to recruit any guest player for the Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference, opting to give his young players as much playing time as possible.
“Gusto kong masanay sila sa laro. Kasi diba si Vince na veteran yung naglaro sa first set, kaya lang naging dalawa kasi na-injure yung isang player ko. Kaya rin hindi ako kumuha ng guest player, kasi ang gusto ko is matuto yung mga player ko sa mga situation na dapat nilang matutunan, kasi mga bata pa yung karamihan dun.”
Coach doesn’t plan on doing this by himself, though. He hopes that veteran Mangulabnan, a multiple-time, multi-league Best Setter awardee, embodies what it means to be a student-athlete; that he becomes a role model for his younger teammates, inside and outside of the court.
“Gusto ko lang ng leadership, na maging model siya sa teammates niya. Lahat ng gagawin niya dapat tama. Siyempre pangatawanan niya yung pagiging lead niya hindi lang sa loob, pati na rin sa labas.”