MANILA, Philippines – Five-setters in volleyball are said to be tests of character. It means two squads fought to a standstill, and now it’s close sudden death in a shorter and faster final set where it isn’t solely about skill but also mental fortitude.
National University’s head coach, Roger Gorayeb knows that all too well. During UAAP’s Season 71 way back in 2008, as coach of the Ateneo Lady Eagles, he played four rookies in his starting six — Fille Cainglet, Dzi Gervacio, Gretchen Ho and Jem Ferrer. In their first four matches of that year, the Lady Eagles lost three five-setters. One can argue that the rookies lacked the experience and maturity to pull off a win against the likes of FEU and UST that season.
However, for current UAAP teams like the UST Golden Tigresses and the NU Lady Bulldogs with their sprinkling of sophomores, juniors, seniors, and super seniors, you have to like their composition. They have what it takes to compete for the UAAP Women’s Volleyball Crown over the next few years. But why wait when they have a chance to fight for a Final Four slot and solidify their status as a legit contender and not an underachieving pretender.
Here’s what we can take away from the match that UST won in five sets (25-14, 25-18, 17-25,19-25,15-12).
NU’s biggest challenge is mental strength.
Easily the tallest team in the league. They’ve got loads of talent and a bench as well. Confidence is an issue though. You have some like Joyce Soliven and Ivy Perez who enjoyed lots of playing time until Roger Gorayeb arrived (and are not spot players). You have some who have thrived under their second year coach who is in his first full season at the bench such as Myla Pablo and Jorelle Singh.
The Lady Bulldogs were riding an impressive three-match win streak where they took down Adamson after losing the first set, swept powerhouse La Salle, and made mincemeat out of UE. Against UST, they came out flat losing the first two sets as they had problems with floor defense, blocking, serving, you name it.
Myla Pablo was the only one in the match. She played with a painful toe injury en route to scoring 20 points. Others checked in and out. Jaja Santiago scattered 23 points with 8 coming in the fifth set. She was virtually absent in the first two sets. The others, Jorelle Singh in particular, checked out at the worst possible time, in the fifth set (and this after scoring a meaningful point after disappearing for great lengths).
By the third set, they turned it around. They even looked good leading three points in the fifth and final set, 12-9. They never got there. It didn’t help that Jaja Santiago wasn’t even in the match at that point as she was in the back and replaced by libero Fatima General.
When they won the V-League title over Ateneo, I wondered if it was right to win it with guest players like Dindin Santiago and Rubie De Leon playing key roles. Nothing wrong with it since it was the collegiate division with reinforcements and that is every team’s right. But I thought that it was a title run at the expense of players who would suit up in the UAAP who could greatly benefit from the experience. Their two V-League titles were won both with their guest players playing major roles. Yet each time, come UAAP, they fell spectacularly. The jury is still out this season as we aren’t even at the halfway mark. Of course, that could work either way.
The loss, nevertheless, hurts their placing. Their last two matches of the first round are against FEU and UP, also fighting for Final Four slots.
UST might have revived their struggling season.
This huge win hiked their record to 2-3 with two matches left both of which are tough ones — La Salle and UP. They already lost a five-setter to Adamson to start their season so you bet this boosts their confidence especially since it came at the hands of a top tier squad.
After taking the first two sets, UST wilted under the turnaround of the Lady Bulldogs. You can see how flat flat and tentative the Golden Tigresses were. Coach Shaq Reyes called timeout again and again not wanting to give NU any more confidence but UST pulled another Jekyll and Hyde switch.
They looked lost all the way until the fifth set when NU self-destructed on their own while UST gained confidence from some luck thrown their own way. But you take any win any way you can.
The Golden Tigresses got major contributions from Cherry Rondina, EJ Laure, and Carmela Tunay and quality minutes from late subs Chloe Cortez and Alyssa Teope. There were contributions from almost everyone save for Christine Francisco, the sole player not used. Nevertheless, they have to feel very good about this win.
If Tunay can consistently provide big numbers behind Rondina and Laure that would help UST advance.
Where both teams go from here bears watching with great interest.