National University head coach Norman Miguel thanked former mentor Babes Castillo for molding and training a determined and strong-willed core of young Lady Bulldogs.
The rookie coach was quick to praise the hard work of Castillo in instilling a never-say-die attitude to the likes of rookies Princess Robles, Ivy Lacsina and rookie Jennifer Nierva, who all played under the ex-Lady Bulldogs tactician during high school.
These freshmen together with veterans Roselyn Doria, Audrey Paran and converted setter Joni Chavez stood their ground to turn back University of the Philippines, 25-17, 14-25, 17-25, 25-23, 17-15, Wednesday in the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
“Kahit on the record, gusto ko i-credit si coach Babes kasi siya ang nag-train ng players na ito. Siya ‘yung nag-mold ng character ng mga players na ito,” said Miguel, who replaced Castillo just two months before the start of the season. “Eh malaking bagay ‘yung paano sila tinerain, binuo ni coach Babes.”
Robles paced the Lady Bulldogs with 17 points, Lacsina had 16 while Nierva tallied 29 excellent sets and 26 digs. The three players including setter Joyme Cagande, who has to sit out the remainder of the season because of a knee injury she sustained in their debut game, all played for Castillo in Nazareth School of NU’s four-peat run in the girls division.
“Sa akin, importante rin (ang panalo) kasi ‘yung hindi mo pwede i-discount na rookies lang sila. Lagi kong sinasabi bago mag-start ang UAAP na may dumarating na mag-interview sa school, sinasabi ko na regardless kung rookies sila, pero champion players ang mga ito doon sa UAAP high school. Ilang championships iyan? Four? So kahit rookie sila, ‘yung experience nila, ‘yung character nila naiitutulong talaga nila sa team,” said Miguel.
The rookie-laden NU squad showed grit and grace under pressure when the Lady Bulldogs overhauled a 10-14 deficit in the fifth set with an amazing 5-0 blast to turn the tables around. After the Lady Maroons saved a match point Lacsina pushed NU on top once again before rookie Gelina Luceno hammered the final nail in the coffin of UP with a kill block on Tots Carlos.
The win snapped the Lady Bulldogs three-game skid for a 2-4 win-loss record and more importantly gave NU the much-needed morale boost to change the course of its campaign.
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