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UAAP Season 80 Starter Pack: UE Lady Warriors

The University of the East Lady Warriors have only had two wins in the three UAAP seasons that Francis Vicente has been coaching.

To blame Vicente for all of the Lady Warriors’ misfortunes unfairly blanks out the program’s near-decades of futility before the former UST Juniors coach bravely took the helm.

There could be plenty of other of problems for UE other than Vicente’s perceived lack of ingenuity. Quite frankly, the university has lagged behind its UAAP counterparts when it comes to recruitment, the foundation of any good program. Expecting Vicente to single-handedly fix years worth of damage on a battered volleyball culture was, and still is, dubious.

However, it is fair to expect incremental improvements from the Lady Warriors, as they have been under the same head coach for three years. Coming into Season 80, Vicente will have been UE’s head mentor for four seasons, making him the third longest-tenured coach in the league, just behind the De La Salle University’s Ramil De Jesus and Ateneo de Manila University’s Tai Bundit.

From a winless Season 77 to capping Season 78 with a their first victory in almost three years, the Lady Warriors were, supposedly, much-improved in Season 79. They battered opponents with supreme height and blocking, inspiring optimism despite another string of losses. They ended the first round with a win against the Adamson University Lady Falcons, but their fortunes took a turn when National Team season came around.

Vicente, who had volunteered as head coach in the social media Hunger Games that is the Women’s National volleyball team, unraveled as the UAAP season coincided with his highly-criticized National Team pool selections and training.

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The Lady Warriors took a dive along with him, losing their last seven games of the season, including a disappointing loss to the Lady Falcons in their season-closer.

Post-UAAP, Vicente continued to come under the heat of the AVC Senior Women’s Championship and the SEA Games. The bright lights of the most-watched volleyball team in the country almost felt like respite for the grizzled coach.

“It’s time na siguro na mabigayan ko ng malaking atensyon ang UE. Hindi naman sa nakalimutan ko sila the past few months, madami lang talagang nangyare,” said Vicente, who was also let go from his post as head coach of Philippine Superliga club Generika-Ayala Lifesavers last December.

The constant losing has not at all made the veteran tactician jaded. However, he acknowledges that the Lady Warriors still have much of the same problems they’ve tried to solve over the past few years.

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“Pagdating sa preparation, we had several things to do in particular with the mindset of each individual para totally ma-put behind na nila yung nakaraan nila.

“Although there’s little improvement in terms of performance, makikita na natin na lumalaban na sila, unti-unti. ‘Yung third year ko ‘yun e. In my fourth year naghire kami ng sports psychologist to help the team in terms of mind setting. Yun yung naging preparation nila,” Vicente admitted.

Vicente has long pinpointed UE’s losing stupor as the program’s main problem. Try as he might to infuse the team with new recruits, Vicente has failed to curb his team’s losing habits. So the journeyman head coach has focused on tinkering with his team’s mentality, starting in the build-up for UAAP Season 79 when he had players regularly answer psychological tests.

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He used the same methods in selecting and cultivating the National Team, which, like the Lady Warriors, had just two wins the SEA Games.

The process is still being trusted in Recto. Now, Vicente is looking for results.

“Ang kailangan namin is ‘yung ma-overcome ‘yung nandun kami sa ibaba. I-angat namin ng mga at least dalawang ranks,” Vicente said. “Basta kailangan going up lagi. ‘Yun ‘yung target namin. ‘Yung pag go up mo dadating ‘yun dun sa gusto ng tao, ‘yung Final Four. Kesa naman ‘yung ine-aim lang namin ‘yung mindset lang.

“Kailangan may target din kaming rank, paunti-unti, every year.”

While Vicente speaks of incremental improvement, much of his core players are running out of time in the UAAP.

The team’s best scorer and most recognizable face, Shaya Adorador is playing out her final year of eligibility. Six-foot-two converted setter Roselle Baliton and sure-handed libero Kath Arado are both in their fourth playing year. Jasmine Alcayde and Angelica Dacaymat, two of the squad’s main wingers, are both going to miss Season 80.

UE does have several young players with potential. Whether or not the Lady Warriors can mobilize that potential into kinetic talent that can lift them from the bottom of the standings depends largely on how well the players absorb Vicente’s psychological molding.

The Lady Warriors are again slated to be one of the league’s tallest teams. Their thicket of arms will faze any attacker. UE need to show improvement everywhere else, as an offense cannot solely rely on blocks or opponents’ errors. The aforementioned Kath Arado is still one of the best liberos in the league. Last year, she was the Best Digger and a top three receiver. Alas, Arado can only do so much. Her teammates need to convert the opportunities she produces into points.

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For the majority of the league, Season 80 marks their best, and possibly final, chance in a long while at a championship. Adamson, FEU, and DLSU will see a chunk of their starting lineup graduate by season’s end. Almost every team is also looking forward to a monumental recruiting class as the dreaded K-12 window finally ends this season.

UE, as always, are in flux. They only have one senior set to graduate, and they have already recruited young players over the past two seasons. With their fellow UAAP schools hauling in the blue chippers, it’s safe to say that there are no players waiting in the wings to refresh the Lady Warriors’ fortunes.

Barely anyone expects UE to win a game this upcoming season, let alone add to their two-win mark in the Francis Vicente era.

The theme of Francis Vicente’s time in UE has been to forget. This rhetoric has been so strong that it’s fair to ask if any Lady Warriors still remember anything. For Season 80, UE might need short-term memory loss or else strive to make this campaign one to remember.

Written By

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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