The National University Lady Bulldogs are falling apart and no one knows why – not the players, not the coaches, not the fans.
Just a few weeks ago, the same Lady Bulldogs took down a major hurdle, defeating perennial tormentors De La Salle University Lady Spikers. They looked like championship contenders.
Almost immediately after, they disintegrated. First, they let a reeling University of Santo Tomas Tigresses squeak out a tough five-setter. Then, the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws and University of the Philippines Lady Maroons each showed NU the door in straight-sets fashion.
It got so bad that in their UP match, head coach Roger Gorayeb sat almost all his veterans in the third set and played his younger bench players. After the match, even UP head coach Jerry Yee had to admit their won mostly because the Lady Billdogs played so poorly.
With what was supposedly a promising season slipping away, everyone on NU seem to be losing grasp of their mental faculties.
“Responsibilidad ko lahat yan. Hindi sila maglaro nang maayos, responsibilidad ko pa rin. Tatanggapin ko yan bilang head coach nila,” Gorayeb said with a dazed look. “Wala akong magagawa. Kung anuman ang problema nila, hindi ko alam. Wala naman kaming ginagawa para magkaproblema sila.”
“Kung hindi ninyo sinasabi sa amin, wala akong magagawa. Ayusin niyo yan,” Gorayeb recalled telling his players. “Noong una akong dumating sa NU, ganito na ang problema nila. Nabago na. Hindi ko alam kung bakit bumalik nanaman.”
“Hindi ko alam” is the general theme with the Lady Bulldogs these days. Like hormonally-fueled teenagers talking to their parents, the Lady Bulldogs just could not point a finger on the origin of their slump. Or, at least, they didn’t care to share.
National Team stalwart, Jaja Santiago said that she had no problem with being benched against UP. Still, the third-year middle blocker had no specific answer as to her squad’s struggles.
“Hirap na hirap po talaga ‘yung team hanapin kung anuman ‘yung problema namin. Nasa sa amin po kasi talaga ‘yung problema,” Santiago admitted while denying that there are feuds within the team.
Team captain Myla Pablo, on the other hand, foresaw her bad game against UP. In the days leading up to the match, Pablo reveals that she was working intensely on her thesis. Having studied well into the night, Pablo told her teammates that she might lack energy.
“Sobrang thankful ako na, kahit papano, nagpakita sila Jorelle (Singh) at Jasmine (Nabor). Nagkulang po talaga ako kanina,” she said.
When it comes to her team’s problems, however, she also had no clue.
“Wala namang problema. Siguro hindi lang kami magkatugma-tugma ng laro,” Pablo quipped. “Sa coaching staff, wala kaming problema. Kami na lang ‘yung sisihin. Hindi naman sila coach ‘yung naglalaro.”
Last season, NU was in a similar spot heading into the second round. Gorayeb took over with the Lady Bulldogs at 2-3. They went 6-3 the rest of the way and earned the third seed in the stepladder Final Four. They trounced FEU in the first phase and took DLSU to the brink of elimination before getting bounced.
It remains to be seen if NU still has what it takes to resuscitate their campaign. Now at 3-4, they will try to bounce back against the Adamson Lady Falcons (also 3-4) on Sunday, 2 p.m. at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
“Reputasyon na ang nakasalalay dito. Sobrang tagal namin pinaghirapan na mabuild-up, bigla na lang mawawala. Wala talaga kaming kalalagyan kung tuloy-tuloy na ganito ang laro namin,” Gorageb closed.