Analysis: UP Lady Maroons' debut vs Ateneo

Rick Olivares - Philstar.com
Analysis: UP Lady Maroons' debut vs Ateneo
Jho Maraguinot of Ateneo tries to score against UP defenders.

MANILA, Philippines – The University of the Philippines Lady Fighting Maroons did not get their desired result with their UAAP Season 82 women’s volleyball tournament opener. They succumbed to a three-set sweep at the hand of the defending champions Ateneo Lady Eagles, 25-13, 25-17, 25-23.

While it is only the first match of the season, the Lady Fighting Maroons must make the most of this opportunity to fulfill its dream of a title.

While most pundits might not rate UP highly, they still have the pieces to make a run toward it. It is the last year for their trio of Tots Carlos, Isa Molde and Justine Dorog. They still have Jesma Ramos, Marist Layug and Rem Cailing. They have rookies Lorie Bernardo and Jewel Encarnacion not to mention setter Marianne Sotomil.

It wasn’t too long ago when Carlos, Molde and Dorog were rookies who added a huge dimension to UP’s game that then had Nicole Tiamzon, Pia Gaiser and Kathy Bersola. They also had several key players then in Jewel Lai, Ayel Estrañero, Marian Buitre and others. 

They had their big chances to win a title of those two seasons; maybe even last year as they had all sorts of preseason success. 

Has that championship window closed? 

Not yet.

I do not want to second-guess Coach Godfrey Okumu’s decisions. I am not at their practices; nor do I see them on a day-to-day basis. I would have sent Marist Layug a little earlier. Along with Jesma Ramos, they know their Ateneo opponents. They have had some success and maybe we can bank on that experience to see if they can battle the Lady Eagles head on.

But that is done.

Working with this team of Lady Fighting Maroons three seasons ago, I told Molde — in front of the entire team — that she was key to this team achieving its dreams of a title. Everyone knows what Carlos is capable of. She cannot do everything though and will need others to carry the load.

Molde did play much better and we saw a return to form, but they just missed the Final Four bus finishing 6-8. Then that next season saw them win some preseason tourneys and UP looked ready to fulfill their destiny. Then they fell short come the UAAP.

In this last battle with Ateneo, the Lady Eagles’ Kat Tolentino had huge help in the form of rookie Faith Nisperos and veteran middle hitter Jules Samonte. 

It is quite obvious that Molde, Encarnacion and the middle players need to contribute. Bernardo had a good debut, and hopefully, she can build on that. Having said that, when Molde shines, UP does well. 

But one cannot hit if one cannot receive and set properly. UP had first ball problems and that really hurt their attack. 

One might say that one disadvantage that UP had was its setter. Sotomil didn’t do too well. Cailing, who previously alternated with Estrañero, did what she could. There’s truth to that. They need consistency and solid play from the playmaking position. 

If they can address those concerns, they could turn things around. 

The Lady Fighting Maroons will face UE for their next match. This is a chance for them to get the job done and gain some confidence.

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