CSB: The trailblazing journey to NCAA glory
Mark Escarlote on Jan 29, 2016 12:15 PM
Unang unang encounter ko sa kanila sabi ko sa kanila, “’Yung totoo, volleyball team ‘to o sumo team ‘to?” -- CSB coach Macky Carino
When head coach Macky Carino assumed the position of calling the shots for College of St. Benilde three years ago, he took over a team that’s not even worthy of being called a diamond in the rough.
What he saw was a bunch of out of shape, overweight girls that happened to be the women’s volleyball team of the Taft-based school.
“Medyo challenging on my part because pagdating ko akala ko hindi volleyball team ‘yung pinuntahan ko. Akala ko sumo team kasi sobrang tataba ng mga players ko. As in,” said Carino, a long time deputy of multi-titled Perpetual Help mentor Sammy Acaylar.
“Unang unang encounter ko sa kanila sabi ko sa kanila, “’Yung totoo, volleyball team ‘to o sumo team ‘to?” Kasi ang lalaki,” added Carino, who drew laughter from reporters during the postgame interview Thursday minutes after CSB captured its first-ever NCAA title at the expense of thrice-to-beat San Sebastian College in the Season 91 Finals series decider, 25-22, 25-23, 22-25, 25-22, at The Arena in San Juan last Thursday.
But like a real master, Carino painstakingly honed, molded and sharpened the Lady Blazers into a team capable of ending CSB’s long wait of snaring the elusive crown.
It took Carino and his girls three seasons to get it.
And it’s worth the wait.
“Nu’ng nasa kabila (Perpetual) pa ako bago ako lumipat sa kanila sabi ko “Kung nagawa nga namin kay coach Sam sa kabila, why not na di ko pwedeng gawin dito sa CSB?” Siyempre sino ba namang coach ang pupunta sa isang institusyon na walang hinangad kundi magtagumpay talaga at makakuha ng championship? ‘Yun talaga ang number one objective ko,” he said.
Carino, also Acaylar’s assistant coach in both the men’s and women’s club teams of Cignal, replaced women’s volleyball legend Thelma Rojas-Barinas at the helm after CSB missed the Final Four cut in Season 88 and went straight to work to turn the Lady Blazers into contenders.
“’Yun biglang after three months ‘yun nag-iba na talaga. Talagang ‘yung mga bata tsina-challenge ko talaga. Ganoon kasi ako sobrang challenge ko sa kanila na kung gusto n’yong makapasok ng semis. Gusto n’yong makilala. Gusto n’yong ma-redeem kung anong nawala sa CSB, kung anong meron sa CSB dati na ma-redeem natin ay trabahuin natin. Hindi natin ‘yan makukuha ng madalian. So yun ang parang starting point ko,” he said.
But fate was not as friendly to the Lady Blazers as they expected.
Prior to Season 91, NCAA’s Final Four uses a round robin format.
It didn’t favor CSB.
“Actually noong first two years kung talagang walang point system baka malay mo tatlong beses pa kaming umabot ng Finals di ba?” Carino said. “Ngayon naging pabor sa amin (ang pag-iba ng format).”
This season, the NCAA adopted the crossover semifinals format with the top two teams securing a twice-to-beat advantage.
But again fate pulled another trick on CSB.
The Lady Stags, the 23-time champions thirsty to get a title since Season 86 and runner up to Arellano University last year, were scorching hot as SSC-R swept the 9-game eliminations pot advance outright to the Finals with a thrice-to-beat advantage.
As for the Lady Blazers: it was an uphill climb.
CSB barely made it to the semis after a two-game losing streak including a four-set loss to SSC-R to end the elims.
The Lady Blazers also needed to survive two knockout matches in the stepladder semis as the no. 4 seed.
The protégé eliminated his mentor’s Perpetual Help before pulling an upset against the Season 90 champion Arellano U for a return trip to the Finals since losing to the Lady Stags in Season 86.
The Lady Blazers facing a thrice-to-win situation, shocked SSC-R in the series opener, 24-26, 25-21, 25-19, 25-13, before turning the tables around in Game 2 as they buried SSC-R, 25-23, 21-25, 25-22. SSC-R forced the decider with a 25-22, 25-19, 26-28, 25-23 Game 3 escape last Tuesday.
CSB in Game 4, pounced on the first two sets and were three points away from the title in the third frame but SSC-R fought back to force an extension behind back-to-back Most Valuable Player Grethcel Soltones, Nikka Dalisay and Jonah Corpuz.
However, graduating players Janine Navarro and setter Djanel Cheng, eventual Finals MVP Jeannette Panaga and Ranya Musa teamed up to realize CSB’s long-time dream in the fourth set with Musa hitting the championship point on an off the block kill that the Lady Stags failed to dig.
“Noong unang taon ko ang standing ko is 8-1, noong pangalawang taon ko ang standing ko 7-2, ‘yung 6-3 umabot ng Finals, o di ba?” Carino said. “Hindi namin akalain ‘yun at nag-champion pa kami. So kung dati pa, malay mo baka ngayon baka na-defend naming yun or baka maging three-peat, malay mo?”
“Mas pumabor sa amin ang pagkakataon. Pumabor sa amin ‘yung pagbabago (sa semis format) ng NCAA, ayun ginrab na namin.”
Asked if he preferred a better finish in the elims rather than their long tiring journey to victory lane, Carino answered, no.
“Sinagot ko na ‘yan. Tinanong sa akin ‘yan. Kasi noong umpisa pa lang, in-expect ko na, ang target namin is parang challenge ko sa kanila na ma-sweep. Hindi mag-champion, kundi mag-sweep. Sabi ko “Try natin na ma-sweep kasi tayo ang buo.” Pero feeling ko mas makakasama nga yata ‘yun kasi imagine ‘yung Baste naka-sweep tapos naghintay ng eight days bago makalaro so baka nabaligtad ang pangyayari na kung kami ang nandoon baka kami ang hindi nag-champion,” he explained.
“Mas nakabuti na rin sa amin na naging pang-apat kami. ‘Yung one game at a time, natututo ang team ko. Palakas ng palakas pagdating ng Finals ayun “Boom!” champion. Talagang todo na ibinigay na talaga ng mga batang ‘to.”
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