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Sophomore Bagunas on continuing NU’s dominant tradition

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The National University Bulldogs are a prime example of optimal roster turnover.

Nearly their entire starting rotation from last season had exhausted their playing eligibility. But NU already had a group of blue-chip recruits sitting on the bench, waiting for their turn to shine.

One of these blue chippers is Batangueño Bryan Bagunas, who spent his rookie season riding the bench and learning from NU’s veterans.
Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Sophomore Bagunas on continuing NU's dominant tradition
Over the off-season, Bagunas transitioned into one of NU’s main scorers. Standing at a staggering 6’1″, Bagunas towers over opposing wing hitters. He slowly unlocked his potential as NU competed in different tournaments. He even got a chance to play in the UAAP Beach Volleyball Tournament, where he and Madzlan Gampong finished third.

In his highly-anticipated debut in the starting six yesterday, Bagunas played spectacularly despite having a slight lower body injury, helping the NU Bulldogs vanquish the Adamson University Falcons in straight sets. Bagunas fired 10 points and contributed highly in his team’s devastating blocking. The Bulldogs frustrated Adamson so much that the Falcons scored just seven points in the last set.

Monstrous blocking and having multiple offensive threats are NU traditions. And so are championships.

A key cog for the new breed of Bulldogs, Bagunas has definitely been feeling the pressure.

“May pressure talaga sa amin. Pero alam kong kaya namin gawin ‘yun. Konting tiwala pa sa sarili,” Bagunas said. Aside from Bagunas, sophomores Francis Saura, Madz Gampong, and Kim Malabunga also debuted in the starting six. Rookies James Natividad and libero Ricky Marcos filled out the rotation with graduating setter Vince Mangulabnan.

Bagunas was also happy to avenge their loss in the InterCol Finals to Adamson last year.

“Noong naglaro po kami sa InterCol, hindi pa talaga kami handa – wala pa kami sa kondisyon. Wala din po noon si Kuya Vince. At least ngayon, kahit papaano nakabawi kami sa UAAP. Grabe kasi ‘yung paghahanda namin dito.”

Part of their preparation had involved adjusting their serves. In prior competitions, the Bulldogs timidly went for standing serves. Against Adamson, the Bulldogs unloaded jump-float serves.

“Talagang inensayo po namin ‘yung service namin para mas may karga. Mas madali kaming makakakuha ng block o puntos kapag na-misreceive ‘yung bola,” Bagunas explained.

But Bagunas also acknowledged his team’s work-in-progress floor defense – a problem they have inherited from past NU teams.

“Kulang pa rin talaga kami sa depensa. Wala po talaga kaming halos receive. Siguro nga po dahil din sa laki namin.”

Bagunas knows his young team still has plenty to improve on if they want to get through teams like those from Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University – the inevitable hurdles to their championship run.

“UAAP po talaga kasi ‘yung main event talaga sa school namin kaya double time kami lagi sa paghahanda. Ngayon po marami pa kaming kailangan matutunan para marating ‘yung gusto namin marating.”

NU have the improved La Salle Green Spikers next on Sunday, February 7, 10 a.m. at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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