Having a winning high school program doesn’t necessarily guarantee a winning collegiate team, once the juniors turn into seniors.
The National University Lady Bulldogs didn’t have to look far to know that.
The Bullpups who won back-to-back championships in Boys Basketball had their core and coach moving to the University of the Philippines for the Men’s Tournament. The result? Another rebuilding year for the Bulldogs, who once dreamed that their dominance in high school would translate to the collegiate level.
“Hindi,” answered veteran Jen Nierva when asked if it was hard to convince their prized rookies to commit to staying in blue and gold – answered definitively, categorically, at that. “Na-feel ko talagang gusto rin nila kung ano yung vision namin na kayang ma-achieve ng NU.
“Before sila mag-college, talagang nakita ko na yung commitment, yung loyalty, and most importantly, yung love nila for NU.”
Nierva was referring Bella Belen, Alyssa Solomon, Sheena Toring, and Lams Lamina, all of whom were rookies who made an immediate impact and became individual awardees as well as collegiate champions last Tuesday. Belen even made history as the first-ever Rookie of the Year-Most Valuable Player in women’s volleyball. All of them were also coming off a title in the most recent season in the juniors, where they dominated in three out of the past four tournaments.
Already armed with one of the best liberos in Nierva, as well as a reliable middle blocker in Ivy Lacsina and dependable outside hitter in Cess Robles, the Lady Bulldogs looked like they were fully-loaded – with young talents who nonetheless already had big game, big moment experience – and were bound to be a force to be reckoned with.
Still, nobody outside Sampaloc saw this coming. National U was expected to be a playoff contender, a finals hopeful, even. But champion – via a season sweep, no less? No one aside from them themselves thought so. There was still traditional powerhouse De La Salle University. There was still defending champion Ateneo de Manila University. There was also Eya Laure and University of Sto. Tomas.
Maybe, just maybe, just about everybody should’ve looked a lot longer and a lot deeper into their lineup. And maybe, just maybe, just about everybody would’ve seen a shakeup coming.
“Yung mga tao, they’re expecting Ateneo, La Salle, as usual. Pero sabi namin, hindi pa nila nakikita yung team (namin), yung rookies namin,” shared the Lady Bulldogs’ senior defensive specialist.
“We stayed silent lang habang nagpe-prepare, but once laro na, we made sure na magbibigay kami ng bagong image for the school.”
Nierva and her teammates have done that, and more.
Now, the Lady Bulldogs are champions, for the first time in 65 years. Now, National U has proven itself to be a breeding ground for top talent in the sport. Now, the blue and gold owns a trophy to hoist over its head as it stands alongside the Lady Spikers, Blue Eagles, and Golden Tigresses.
“I really want to play pa po. I don’t know yet lang kung paano yung plano kasi graduating na po ako,” she detailed.
“I’ll just enjoy this moment first then we’ll talk about it.”
Whether or not she’ll be back as the defending champions’ star libero next season, Jen Nierva has already done her job: receiving the serve and putting the ball up there to be set up and then spiked. Whether than be in-game, or for the National U program itself.