Sports has not only given birth to some of the best, unscripted stories in human history, but has also provided us with some of the most worn out clichés. Perhaps no cliché is spewed out more than the old desire-to-win addage. The saying goes that more than the tactical adjustments of coaches or the intensive training athletes put themselves through, players have to tangibly show during games that they want to win more than their foes as if there are players who train and play to lose.
As non-sensical as that sounds, it can’t be denied that for both UST and CSB – teams in no shortage of talent – have to respectively establish mental stability in order to go deep into the Shakey’s V-league Collegiate Conference.
Expectations are high for the UST Tigresses. With a new coach and a slew of experienced veterans, the prevailing thought was the Thomasians would easily go through their opening matches of the tournament. Instead, the past two weeks revealed that the Tigresses still haven’t outgrown some of the growing pains of the past few rebuilding years. Fifth-year Wing Hitters, Mela Tunay and Pam Lastimosa showed incremental improvements in their respective PSL-AFC stints, sophomore Open Spiker Ej Laure and third-year Middle Blocker Ria Meneses showed promise in the AVC-U23 tournament, while fourth-year Setter Alex Cabanos has been stewing in the UST system, due for a breakout performance.
Despite their much more tenured team, UST floundered in their opening match against an Ateneo team that was missing four of their UAAP Season 77 championship winning starting rotation – Alyssa Valdez, Denden Lazaro, Michelle Morente, and Jia Morado. In their following match, UST looked well on their way to a convincing sweep of the DLSU-Dasma Lady Patriots, until they relaxed and let DLSU steal a set and almost drive the match into a fifth set.
A visibly disappointed Kung-Fu Reyes expressed in the post press-game conference after their DLSU match his dismay over his team’s lack of sense of urgency. “Straight set na talaga dapat yoon,” the decorated high school coach said. “Ang masakit pa doon, ang mga nagkakamali pa ‘yung mga seniors namin. Kapag natatalo kami, ang tanong ay ‘Ano ba dapat ang dapat namin aralin?’ Kapag nanalo naman ang sunod na tanong, ‘Paano ba kami nanalo?’ Nanalo nga kami (UST), pero bakit nga ba kailangang pa rin kami (UST coaching staff) magalit? May mga butas pa rin kami na dapat ayusin. Hindi lang skills-wise.”
When asked about his team’s overall maturity, Reyes reiterated his discontent with the results his team has produced. “‘Di pa rin kami kuntento sa mga nangyayari. Kaya nga kami sumali dito, eh para makita ‘yung sakit ng team. Ang kailangan lang naman, dapat lahat willing matuto. Hindi ‘yung kuntento ka na lang sa alam mo na.”
On the other hand, the CSB Lady Blazers have been on the cusp of true title contention in the past few NCAA Seasons.
Their two ace players, Middle Blocker Jeanette Panaga and Wing Hitter Janine Nanvarro, performed brilliantly in the AVC Seniors Tournament in China, but just two good players do not make volleyball team great. Their head coach, Michael Cariño, is well aware of this.
Against a less heralded TIP squad last week, the Lady Blazers slumped midway through the match and needed four sets to finish off the Lady Engineers. When asked about the result, Cariño said that complacency is a recurring problem with his team that he is still looking to fix. “Last year pa problema ng team yan,” he expressed. “Matagal naming pinaghandaan ‘yung game tapos dahil sa pag-relax, parang mawawala ‘yung paghahanda na ‘yun. Kasi papasok na ‘yung pressure, mawawala na ‘yung focus.”
When asked about his matchup with the Tigresses, Cariño recognized the threat UST poses, but he knows his team isn’t far from their level. “As an NCAA team, medyo may chip sa shoulder talaga kami. Pero the more na we get that out of our heads and focus on preparation, mas magiging successful kami. It’s all about focus and discipline sa volleyball,” shared Cariño.
The match is pivotal for both teams who are both looking to stay as far away from the bottom two of their group to advance to the next round of eliminations of the SVL. Benilde is currently tied with Ateneo at first with matching 2-0 cards, while UST and TIP follow, both at 1-1. UST and CSB will meet on July 26, Sunday.