Nico Almendras’ return to competitive form will be a key piece for Sta.Elena-National U in the ongoing 2023 Spikers’ Turf Invitational Conference semifinals.
Nationals head coach Dante Alinsunurin explained that the 6-foot-3 wing spiker, along with setter Joshua Retamar, were given ample time to rest after their championship run in the UAAP Season 85 men’s volleyball tournament which ended last May.
That was also the reason why National U’s top two aces skipped the 2023 V-League Collegiate Challenge, where the school failed to make the semifinals and finished just fifth among eight squads.
In the elimination round of the season-ending conference of the Spikers’ Turf, Almendras only played limited minutes and compiled just 11 points in the pool play where the Nationals topped their group with a 4-1 record.
Slowly but surely, though, the 2022 Open Conference MVP is getting his groove back just in time for the round-robin semis where action is expected to get tougher and tougher.
“Yung condition ko naman medyo humahabol na ako sa kanila ngayon unlike nung past few games namin na talagang back to zero ako,” said Almendras, a proud son of Batangas.
In their opener in the semis against Cignal, he went for nine points despite bowing in straight sets.
And on Friday afternoon, Almendras showed that he’s getting to where he wants to be by unloading 15 points in their four-set win against Saints and Lattes-Letran.
He also excelled on his service-receive with 21 excellent receptions out of the 27 attempts.
“Focus lang ako sa sistema nila coach na pinapagawa sa amin everyday sa ensayo, kaya dapat talaga sa ensayo pukpukan para pagdating sa game, mas madaling mailabas,” said the multi-level scorer.
Helping him adjust faster would be the schedule as the Nationals will be back on the floor in less than 24 hours as they will face Perpetual-Kinto Tyres tomorrow (Saturday) at the Philsports Arena.
National U is currently tied with Letran in the middle of the five-team semis with identical 1-1 records.
After the Altas, they will take on Japanese guest team Maruichi on Monday.