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UE Lady Warriors: UAAP LXXIX Starter Pack

THE UE Lady Warriors had just capped a tremendous showing, whipping the EAC Lady Generals in a tuneup match at their home gym in Recto. For most teams, a tuneup would be enough activity for a day. But the Lady Warriors are bent on changing their culture.

Last season, UE skidded to their 58th straight loss. Head coach Francis Vicente, one of the most respected mentors in the country, bore the brunt of the criticism for a program he was just beginning to rebuild. It got to a point where Vicente threatened to resign if they didn’t win their final game of the season. Luckily, they caught the Adamson Lady Falcons at the perfect time, dashing the San Marcelino-based spikers and their infamous losing streak.

Which brings us back to their scrimmage against the Lady Generals. As the players were cooling down, Vicente was handed a folder filled with psychological examinations of his players. One by one, Vicente talked to his wards about the results of the tests and how they were progressing.

More than developing skilled players, Vicente is pulling out all the stops to winners.

“Dito, makikita mo may mga analysis kami diyan sa bawat player – of their anxieties, of their weaknesses. Kasi hindi lang dapat sa physical aspect nakatingin sa players, importante talaga ‘yung mental aspect,” he told Tiebreaker Times.

Vicente is the only coach in the UAAP that subjects his players to psychological tests. For him, the aim is not to forget how to loss, but to learn how to win.

“Volleyball is a tough game. Maraming pressure every point kaya gusto mo sa mga players mo na matuto sila kung paano nila ia-approach ‘yung laro. Hindi ko sinasabing mananalo kami nang marami this season, no. Ang makikita niyo sa amin ay ibang UE na. Lahat nang gagawin namin, patungo sa panalo.”

Season 79 promises to be the dawn of a new UAAP era with many of the stalwarts and icons that helped elevate the league and the sport exhausting their playing eligibility. The Lady Warriors eye a similar transition. Heading into Vicente’s fourth year calling the shots, the Lady Warriors are looking forward to a breakthrough year for the program.

“Yes, iba na kami this season. Malaking tulong talaga ‘yung nanalo din kami last year kasi it was a relief for everybody. May mga players ako dito na buong UAAP career nila, hindi pa nakatikim ng panalo until last year. Alam na nila ang paghihirap para manalo. Makikita mo sa amin ‘yun kapag nagte-training kami – iba na talaga ang mentality.”

Sure enough, the Lady Warriors seemed confident as they played their tuneup against EAC. Incoming fourth year winger Shaya Adorador revels in the determined tone of each of her teammates.UAAP-78-Volleyball-UE-vs.-AdU-Adorador-6331 UE Lady Warriors: UAAP LXXIX Starter Pack Bandwagon Wire UAAP UE Volleyball  - philippine sports news

“Siyempre para sa amin, nakakadagdag ng confidence and ‘yung morale namin, nandodoon nga. Ginagawa naming inspiration ‘yun to motivate each other and to lead ‘yung sarili namin, para ang goal namin ay maabot namin,” Adorador expressed.

Although she is still apprehensive if they can reach their set goal – the Final Four.

“Actually ang goal namin is umangat kami hanggang apat. No. 4. Kasi sobrang ano pa… Imposible man, pero gagawin namin kasi kailangan na.”

For Vicente, having goals, however lofty, is the necessary next step to his team’s development.

“Sabi ko sa kanila, dapat may goal talaga tayo na gusto nating abutin. Hindi ‘yung handa lang tayo ng handa. Bakit ba tayo nate-training? Bakit ba tayo naglalaro? Kasi may ine-aim tayo.”

Adorador, along with libero Kath Arado and converted setter Roselle Baliton, kept a busy off-season, joining Vicente and the Generika Lifesavers in the PSL. Although the Lifesavers also experienced frustrating conferences, the 20-year old Adorador learned a lot from playing with veterans.PSL-GP-2016-Army-vs.-Generika-Arado-0313 UE Lady Warriors: UAAP LXXIX Starter Pack Bandwagon Wire UAAP UE Volleyball  - philippine sports news

“Nag-try po talaga ako kumuha as much as I can sa mga tinuturo ng mga ate sa team. Iba po kasi talaga kapag beterano na ‘yung nagli-lead. ‘Yun po siguro ‘yung gusto kong mangyare – hindi lang maging leader pero turuan ‘yung teammates kung paano ‘rin maging leader,” Adorador admitted.

Not all players, however, survived the grueling season and UE’s struggles. Promising rookie Celine Domingo transferred to the neighboring FEU while Dana Disquitado, one of UE’s most consistent setters last year, returned home to the province.

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Vicente elected not to comment on the departures.

“I try to be as much of a father-figure to my players. As much as tinuturuan ko sila mag-volleyball, I also want to prepare them for my life,” Vicente remarked.

Still, UE sports a young roster with every member still eligible to come back for Season 80, when they get an influx of promising transferees.

Watching the Lady Warriors, in past years, has been a practice of frustration. For a time, it seemed even Vicente could not save the Lady Warriors’ program. They turned into a joke, an afterthought, and a team that could always be easily penciled in at the bottom of the standings before the start of every season.

Get your erasers ready; the Lady Warriors are ready to win more than one game.

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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