With 25 UAAP Men’s Volleyball Championships under their program’s belt, the FEU Tamaraws and their coach Kid Santos have high standards for success. So sitting firmly in fifth place eight games into the season is far from familiar territory for this storied program.
“Oo, ito talaga, dahil wala iyung mga players, iba na, kaya from the very start marami na akong binago,” answered Santos when asked whether this was the most challenging season for him in his career. Santos is fondly remembered by volleyball aficionados as the coach that led Rachelle Anne Daquis and the Lady Tams to a UAAP Women’s title back in 2008. Santos also has unrivaled success in his Men’s coaching career, orchestrating multiple title runs for FEU.
“Kami talaga pinakamaliit this season, kaya dinadaan na lang namin sa bilis,” said Coach Kid when asked about his team’s biggest hurdle. This iteration of the FEU Tamaraws is sorely lacking in height after their main stalwarts played out their eligible years last season, with the loss of high-flying Carl Dela Calzada, their leading scorer, hampering them the most this season. FEU ranked in the top half of the best spiking teams in the UAAP for the past five seasons, but this season they tipped to fifth in the league while ranking dead last in blocks and seventh in serving per stats provided by TMX Sports.
But Coach Kid is optimistic about the future of his squad, acknowledging that he has three rookies on the team that can carry them in the future. “Kung nakikita niyo iyung tatlong bagong ginagamit ko (Richard Solis, Redijohn Paler, Franco Camcam) paminsan-minsan talagang hilaw na hilaw pa, mga 16-17 years old pa pero next year mahirap na sila pigilan.”
Coach Kid also said that he had to do some major house cleaning when it came to his team’s academic standards, stating that in previous seasons a lot of the players were considered ineligible due to academic standing. “Sabi ko sa kanila (FEU players) kailangan mag-aral ka muna, hindi basta magpapractice ka na lang. Pag di ka nag-aral, hindi kita kukunin. Kailangan mag-aral muna sila lahat,” quipped Coach Kid.
“Kaya pag sinabi nilang may pasok, sige pasok. Pag sinabi nilang ’Coach may test bukas’, walang practice, workout lang. Kasi sabi ko sa kanila, ganyan din ako, kung di dahil sa paglalaro, di ako makakatapos ng pag-aaral. Iyun ang dream ko sa kanila,” he stated.
Now fifth in the standings, FEU is in danger of missing the Final Four, something that has only happened once for the proud program since the inception of the Final Four system. But with the most respected coach in local volleyball in tow, things are bound to turn around for the Tamaraws.