It’s almost unfathomable how the National University Lady Bulldogs have dragged themselves back into the same situation they were in last season.
Last season, after picking up a morale-boosting first-round win over eventual champions De La Salle University Lady Spikers, the Lady Bulldogs spun into three losses in their next four matches. The losing skid eventually cost them a Final Four appearance.
This season, the Lady Bulldogs have managed a similar early-season victory, vanquishing the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles for a 3-0 start. Since then, NU have dropped two straight matches in demoralizing fashion.
Head coach Roger Gorayeb summed their problem up simply: NU have failed miserably on their first touches.
“Karamihan ng practice namin, nagugugol namin sa service receive na ‘yan. Hindi naman kami nagkukulang sa ensayo diyan,” Gorayeb shared after NU dropped a four-set decision to the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws. He still rued how the Lady Bulldogs gave up misreceptions at the crucial points of the match.
Much of NU’s problems, Gorayeb surmises, are in their mental toughness. It has been frustrating for the decorated mentor to coach the Lady Bulldogs to their optimal performance only to have them fall back out of form.
“Maayos naman kasi sila noong umpisa, buti sana kung struggling talaga ‘yung team. Nanghihinayang ako kasi naipakita nila ‘yung potential nila. Naide-develop namin. Bakit bumabalik sa dati? Is it ‘yung sudden surge ng papuri sa kanila? Hindi ko alam. May mga outside influences sa team na hindi ko naco-control,” he expressed.
“Hindi naman stamina ‘yung kinabagsak namin. ‘Yun lang toughness ng utak nila, yung toughness ng emotions nila. Kasi ang hirap nilang buhayin. Kasi kapag ‘yung player ayaw nang lumaro, ang hirap na paluruin.”
To wake up his wards, Gorayeb has reached deeper into his well of intensity, evident in NU’s televised timeouts.
“Sabi ko nga nagmumuka na akong walang hiya kasi talagang lumalabas ‘yung adrenaline ko para palabanin sila. Sabihin ng iba ako ang may mali? Sige. Para ako na lang din naman ‘yung remeresib. Panget din naman na akin lang lahat,” he rued.
While the situation seems dire now, there is more cause for optimism than there was last year. Season 78 was filled with controversies in the locker room which Gorayeb felt he could not control. With the graduation of several players and his summer cull of players, Gorayeb feels he has a better grasp on this season’s team.
From this point on, Gorayeb challenges his players to stay intact and help each other get through the season.
“Basta ang sabi ko nga sa kanila, walang iwanan. Hindi ‘together we stand, divided we fall’ dapat ‘together we stand, together we fall.’
“Kasi mali ng isa, mali naming lahat. Kailangan pagtulungan namin ‘to. Hindi ko na kinukwestyon ‘yung kagustuhan nila manalo. Dapat kasi nandoon din ‘yung effort,” Gorayeb concluded.