In its three-peat quest in the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Volleyball Tournament, National University worked on a scheme to fill the enormous gap left behind by Bryan Bagunas, who had already exhausted his playing eligibility a season prior.
The Bulldogs veered away from their high-octane, Bagunas-led offense, leaning more on their defensive coverage while still drawing out their scoring potential.
“Medyo balanse ‘yung team namin ngayon kasi last year talaga, naka-focus kami sa offense namin. Ngayon, sabi ko, ”Yung offense natin bababa talaga porsyento, focus tayo sa depensa namin,'” NU head coach Dante Alinsunurin said when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was still a distant concern.
Part of the plan was also to unleash former UE stalwart Ed Camposano, who sat out more than his required residency year because Bagunas was still in tow last season.
Having made decisive steps in a bid for a third consecutive title, there’s no question that the Bulldogs know that results are only as good as the plan.
But, even the best-laid schemes can go awry.
Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 in the Philippines and across the world, the UAAP made an inevitable decision of cancelling the remainder of Season 82, turning NU’s plan of action upside down.
And no one took the decision harder than the team’s graduating players in Ricky Marcos, James Natividad, Banjo Mondero, Paulo Ancheta, and Camposano.
“Siyempre mabigat para sa amin kasi two-time defending champion pa kami ng UAAP,” Marcos, a two-time UAAP Best Digger (78, 79) awardee.
“‘Yung pinanghahawakan namin nandoon so mawawala lang hindi namin na-defend.”
He then continued, “Mas lalo na sa aming mga graduating students, mga senior, kami na ‘yung mga beterano sa loob ng court, pero ‘di ba aalis kami sa team ng ‘di namin na-defend. Pero siyempre, ‘yung safety ng everyone ‘yung kailangan dito talaga.”
Still, Marcos feels grateful that NU remains the defending champion of the league, all the while preserving the winning culture that he has helped build through the years.
The Bulldogs emerged unscathed across two matches in the now-truncated season, proving themselves capable of winning a title even without Bagunas.
“‘Yung team namin ngayon, sobrang mataas pa rin ‘yung morale nila kasi back-to-back champion po kami, and then ‘yung pinanghahawakan namin nandoon,” he beamed.
“And even mawala din kami sa team, siyempre ‘yung background pa rin ng team namin mataas pa rin.”
Marcos also acknowledges that his career, as well as those of his teammates, will continue once the global health crisis is over. He might even get to suit up for NU once more should the league grant concerned athletes an extension.
NU’s defensive specialist will just turn 24 come August 1.
“‘Di naman dito natatapos ‘yung volleyball career nila, pati namin. So may bagong pagsubok at bagong hamon pa rin ‘yung dadating sa ‘min.”