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Gampong, Bagunas carrying NU’s hopes for a four-peat



National University has built one of the most dominant local men’s volleyball programs early in this decade. Aside from their two UAAP indoor titles, the Bulldogs have also flourished in the sand courts having won three straight UAAP championships.

Now NU legends Edwin Tolentino and Henry Tipay won all three of those titles with their third coming last season when they downed rivals UST in three games. Tolentino and Tipay had amazing chemistry: the height-disadvantaged Tipay relied mostly on his explose athleticism while Tolentino worked the net with his long wingspan and uncanny court sense.

The pair both served their last playing year last season, leaving with them their unmatched streak of titles. NU, however, retooled with younger yet potentially more dominant pair in Madzlan Gampong and Bryan Bagunas.

Both are sophomores who start at open hitter for the NU Bulldogs indoor team. Bagunas, a native of Batangas, admits that he had no prior experience of playing on sand before two weeks ago when he started training with Gampong. Still, Bagunas has all the tools to reek havoc on opponents.

“Sabi po nung mga coaches maganda daw po ‘yung laro ko sa beach volley kasi matangakad ako tapos may palo din kasi nga open hitter po ako,” the soft-spoken Bagunas said. Standing at 6’2” with arms that stretch all the way to his knees at rest, Bagunas works as a more threatening version of Tolentino. But, he concedes that his ball control still has a long way to go.

Gampong, on the other hand, was almost born in sand. Hailing from Tawi-tawi, Gampong recalled his days in the beaches of his hometown where he hustled scrubs for money in beach volleyball. “Dati pa po, noong bata pa po ako, lagi pa kami naglalaro ng kaibigan ko sa buhangin. Nakikipagpustahan pa nga po kami madalas,” the lively 5’10” sophomore told. Gampong skills are easily perceivable with his quick reaction times and aerial exploits. Gampong has also trained with Tolentino and Tipay in past years before stepping into the UAAP.

Bagunas and Gampong have overpowered their opponents, but they haven’t exactly breezed through their opening matches. They surrendered the opening set of their matches against AdU and FEU and had to scramble to get the win. Against Ateneo, also a powerful team, the cracks in NU’s game showed. Their ball control was inconsistent, and their attacking wavered in crucial spurts. They dragged the match into a heated third set but ran out of gas in the end game to keep up with their Loyola counterparts.

“Sobrang napagod po kami noon – sa tagal ng hinintay namin between those games. Hindi pa po maganda ‘yung sinimula namin kaya talagang nadala kami ng pagod pagdating ng dulo,” Gampong said with Bagunas providing a nod of agreement.

The pair still remains confident that they can continue NU’s winning ways. Despite the pressure, both agree that the more reps they get as a pair, the closer they’ll get to getting into their own championship form.

“Lagi nga po akong tinetext ni Kuya Edwin (Tolentino). Laging tinatanong kung sino po kalaban namin, na kailangan namin manalo. May pressure po talaga. Pero kaya naman po namin yan. Lahat naman po naghahanda pero wala naman po kaming hindi kaya talunin,” Gampong confidently said.

For the schedule of NU’s remaining games, click here.


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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