After making history and winning the program’s first major title, the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons followed with a resounding performance to clinch the first-ever PSL Collegiate Grand Slam title.
Bagging two titles have placed the Lady Maroons firmly as contenders in UAAP Season 81. UP head coach Godfrey Okumu is staying cautious as he knows that the UAAP is a totally different competition in almost all aspects compared to any tournament they played in the pre-season.
“It means a lot of pressure for them and for me,” the Kenyan coach said of his team’s recent success.
“I’ve tried all my players in these preseason games. I’ve played almost twenty-eight, at least twenty-five or twenty-six players. I’ve been able to recycle them in all the tournaments we’ve played. It’s gonna be hard to choose, so don’t ask me my line-up for UAAP, because I don’t know. We had a trophy, and this is the second one. It’s just a big pressure, and just hoping for the best.”
UP has had to integrate several new pieces. Rookies Mirgie Bautista, Nikki Magsarile, and Marianne Sotomil were tremendous in their first stints in college. Returning Aie Gannaban and Caryl Sandoval quickly earned with the former even winning the CGS First Best Middle Blocker Award.
But the Lady Maroons are still going to pull most of their offense from fourth year wingers Isa Molde and Tots Carlos. Both won MVP in the respective tournament they suited up in with Molde notching the PVL recognition while Carlos was the PSL MVP.
Over the past two UAAP seasons, the Lady Maroons have both experienced letting a strong start go to waste and finding their groove too late into the tournament. They’ll need to stay consistent in one of the tightest fields in recent memory.
“I believe since two or three years ago, this team was a champion team, and it was just a matter of time. But as I said before, big pressure. UAAP is another game altogether,” Okumu emphasized.
“We only played against three of the other teams. So, I don’t wanna judge ourselves before playing against everybody else. So yes, we want to go out there and win the UAAP, but we have to tread carefully. We have to be polite as we move on, train, work hard. Because it’s a really big challenge for us, and we wouldn’t like to play so well in the offseason, and when the real tournament comes up, we don’t perform. So I believe, it puts us in a very tight situation, but the fight is there. So we’re gonna fight until the end.”
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