As a school still undergoing a major face lift image-wise, the NU sports program doesn’t get much support outside of its students, alumni, and administration. On social media, netizens more often poke holes at NU’s accomplishments rather than laud them.
Which is why when the pivotal Game Three of the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference came last Sunday the Lady Bulldogs dedicated the game for each other: for every member of the team and shunning their naysayers.
“Sabi po namin before the game, manalo o matalo, gagawin namin lahat para sa isa’t isa. Hindi na para sa ibang tao, para sa amin na lang ‘tong larong ‘to: sa aming mag-titeammates. Marami na ‘rin kaming pinagdaanan para marating ‘yung point na ‘to,” said NU team captain, Jorelle Singh.
The Lady Bulldogs played truly inspired volleyball, vanquishing the Ateneo Lady Eagles and their gallery of manic fans. It was not even close. For the second straight game, NU finsihed off Ateneo in straight sets – a feat few teams can boast.
“Inisip na lang po namin na kunwari sa amin nagchicheer ‘yung fans nila (Ateneo). Every time na mag-ingay sila, ginawa namin inspiration para maitulak pa lalo ‘yung laro namin,” Singh explained.
Jorelle is the poster girl of NU’s conundrum with her wide frame drawing more attention than her game. Coming out of NU’s vaunted girl’s volleyball program, Singh could always chug power into her hits no matter what set she was given. In UAAP 77, Singh consistently scored double-digits, perfectly complimenting the play of eventual National team standouts, Myla Pablo and Jaja Santiago and helping NU claim a third-seed.
When her floor defense came into question, Jorelle worked tirelessly with head coach Roger Gorayeb and his staff to shore up her weakness.
“Talaga pong naging focus ko na makatulong sa depensa namin. Tuwing practice lahat na po ng tipo na palo pinapasalo sa akin. Bago nga po kanina (Game Three) puro sa zone po na bantay ko pinapadala ‘yung bola noong practice,” Singh told. Flying around the court, Singh consistently provided NU with coverage while showing improvement in her service reception throughout the season. Against Ateneo, she kicked up her game up multiple notches, conspiring with her teammates to limit the Lady Eagles’ offense.
Along with her defensive focus, Singh also took on the role of team captain, a role she says came to her by surprise. “Nilapitan na lang po ako ni Coach Roger before ng liga tapos sinabihan ako na ako daw ‘yung captain… Siyempre po nagulat ako kasi maraming seniors sa team na mas matanda sa akin, medyo may ilang po sa part ko pag I-lilead ko sila,” she recalled. In one sequence in their Finals series opener, coach Roger urged Singh to challenge a questionable call with the referees, a privilege the rules afford only to team captains. An adamant Singh nearly forced the first referee to draw a yellow card. Coach Gorayeb, however, admired his team captain’s moxie.
“Gusto ko sana si Myla [Pablo] ‘yung mag-captain. Kaso parang ayaw niya pa. Kaya kay Jorelle ko binigay. Matapang siya kaso nga lang bata pa, marami pang ilalaro para sa NU yan si Jorelle. Ngayon pa nga lang, ang ganda na nang nilalaro,” Gorayeb remarked.
When speaking of improvement, NU’s libero Bia General also deserves heaps of praise.
Taking over for legendary floor general Jen Reyes, much was expected of General. The start of Season 77 didn’t bode well for General as she struggled to live up to the lofty standards Reyes left, often tormented on social media for her futility. With the hiring of Coach Roger midway through UAAP 77, however, General’s game slowly improved.
“Ang sinasabi lang po sa akin lagi ni coach, maging confident – kahit sino pa ‘yung kalaban namin, maging kampante ako dahil sa training namin na mabubuhay ko ‘yung bola saka makakatulong ako sa team,” General said.
After the UAAP, General played for a club team under another legendary coach. Bringing her improvement full-circle, General kept the NU backrow impenetrable in the SVL, garnering enough stats to bag her first Best Libero award. “Siyempre sobrang saya ko po. Pinaghirapan ko din po na mag-improve kaya masarap sa pakiramdam na nabigyan pa ako ng award,” General remarked.
In the Finals, General’s omnipresent floor defense was at full display. In one sequence in Game Two, Ateneo was catching up from a huge deficit in the second set. Wanting to get a sure point, Gizelle Tan tossed a perfect set for Alyssa Valdez who was gliding from the back row and drew no attention from a single NU blocker. The Conference MVP unleashed a vicious angled hit that hurdled towards General’s left side. Usually a sure point for the phenom, Valdez let out an extended sigh of exasperation when Bia popped her attack up confindently, allowing her team to counter immediately.
Valdez, it turns out, would let out more looks of exasperation in the series. In Game Two, the multi-award best scorer had only nine points. In Game Three, she managed just 14. Although stopping great scorers involve a holistic team effort, Bia General probably prevented at least 15 Valdez points throughout those two games on her own by just keeping the ball alive at all costs. Target anyone on NU. But targeting General has now become an inept strategy.
“Mas nabibigyan po kami ng confidence ng championship na ‘to lalo na at Ateneo ‘yung natalo namin. Ngayon, nakita namin na kaya namin sila sabayan. Dadalhin na lang po namin siguro ‘yung confidence na ‘to sa UAAP,” General answered when asked about the win’s effect on their upcoming UAAP campaign.
Singh echoed General’s sentiments. “Siyempre po ang saya-saya lang na Ateneo ‘yung natalo namin. Nandoon si Valdez, ang dami nilang malakas, ang dami din nilang fans, pero nanalo pa rin kami. Maganda po para sa amin to sa UAAP kasi nakita namin na kaya naman pala namin.”
Perhaps now Singh and General’s play will draw more headlines for NU. Because, whether you like it or not, NU’s on the rise. Their claim to a UAAP championship – like Singh’s powerful hitting or General’s defensive instinct – is legit.
Mark Dyke back in La Salle
Jaja Santiago does not want La Salle win to be NU’s only Season 80 highlight
Air Padda confident ‘intimidated’ Lady Falcons will bounce back
Short-handed Golden Tigresses stun Lady Falcons
SOURCES: Blue Eaglet Joaqui Manuel commits to La Salle
Orlan Wamar, Judel Fuentes step up for Rod Ebondo-less CEU, drops Wangs-Letran to fifth
Arellano Lady Chiefs core, Shola Alvarez join Tacloban in PVL
Marinerong Pilipino sails to sixth straight win, books playoffs ticket
- DLSU1 day ago
SMART Sports Player of the Week Kim Dy steps up to keep La Salle on top
- Basketball4 days ago
With Chris Ross still hurt, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser steps up
- News3 days ago
Petro Gazz Angels to take flight in PVL
- News5 days ago
Ces Molina steps up as Petron denies Cocolife for first round sweep