Lady Bulldogs: Craving for a Championship Pedigree
Anton Roxas on Jan 26, 2016 11:53 AM
Sana makapasok kami ng Finals. ‘Yun ang pini-prepare namin -- NU captain Myla Pablo
No. of UAAP titles: 2 (Season 19)
Season 77 record: 8-6 (3rd)
Head coach: Roger Gorayeb
National University is tired of coming up short.
For two straight seasons in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball tournament, the NU Lady Bulldogs came within a win away from reaching the Finals for the first time in recent memory.
Although history states that the school has won 2 titles in 1954 and 1957, the reputation of the Lady Bulldogs as a team without a championship pedigree still shadows them.
That is the reason why after just five matches last season, NU made a bold attempt to inject a winning mentality into the team by hiring one of the most accomplished and recognizable coaches in the Philippine Volleyball scene, Roger Gorayeb.
Gorayeb began his coaching career in 1984 as a student of San Sebastian College-Recoletos. His transition from player to coach was a seamless one as he led the Men’s, Women’s and Juniors teams of SSC-R to the championship in his very first year on the job. (Yes, he coached all three teams and won. He was also the ‘playing coach’ on the Men’s team.) 22 out of the 23 total championships of the Lady Stags were attained under the guidance of Gorayeb. No team has won more titles in NCAA Women’s Volleyball history.
In 2008, Gorayeb was hired by Ateneo de Manila University. The legendary coach immediately laid out the groundwork for the future and established a winning culture within the team. His coaching record in five UAAP seasons with Ateneo was 48-31. This includes the Lady Eagles’ first two trips to the Finals in 2012 and 2013.
Now, with a full off-season of training with Gorayeb, the Lady Bulldogs are hoping to make it to the big dance in UAAP Season 78.
“Sana makapasok kami ng Finals. ‘Yun ang pini-prepare namin,” says Myla Pablo, the new Team Captain of NU.
One of the highlights of NU’s preparation for the upcoming UAAP season was winning the Shakey’s V-League Season 12 Collegiate Conference last October. The Lady Bulldogs beat the Alyssa Valdez led Ateneo team in their best-of-three championship series, 2-1. Pablo was named Finals MVP but before the tournament started, she was given the captaincy by her coach.
“Na-shock ako. Mahirap maging Captain. Sayo yung mga responsibilidad sa team. Parang inisip ko lang na, ‘kaya ko ‘to’. Binigay sa akin ni Coach Roger ito. Ikaw yung mga maghahandle sa mga bata,” shared Pablo.
Shi Dadang and Rizza Mandapat are the only two players gone from last year’s lineup. Replacing them are utility spiker Jasmine Nabor from Tarlac and setter Rica Diolan from Davao. Jorelle Singh, Roma Doromal, Roselyn Doria, Klarisa Abrian and Myla’s younger sister, Marites round up the sophomores on the squad.
Gayle Valdez and Bia General will take turns receiving the most difficult spikes as liberos while former UAAP Rookie of the Year Aiko Urdas makes her return to the lineup after missing last season due to a torn ACL on her left knee.
Aside from Myla Pablo, Azie Soliven and Ivy Perez will be playing in their final UAAP tournament before graduation.
Despite having an almost intact lineup with 12 holdovers from the team that finished 3rd last year, how far NU will go this season will still depend heavily on the play of the 6-foot-5, 3rd year middle blocker, Jaja Santiago.
Santiago averaged a team-high 18 points per match and was awarded Best Spiker in UAAP Season 77. The native from Cavite City firmly believes that under Gorayeb, the Lady Bulldogs have evolved into a better team.
“Unang binuild sa amin ni Coach Roger ‘yung confidence at ‘yung maturity ng bawat isa. Nag-gel na ‘yung team. Nag-improve rin ‘yung endurance at speed namin. Last year, nagi-stop na kaagad kami kasi hindi na kaya. Ang training namin sobrang hirap,” said Santiago.
Early this month, the team went to Baguio to engage in some high-altitude training that involved running around an Olympic oval five times within eight minutes.
“Ang hirap huminga. Sakit sa dibdib. Pero malaking tulong siya sa conditioning,” added Santiago.
The NU Lady Bulldogs have all the tools to accomplish their goals this season: A champion coach, complete lineup, successful training camp and talented leaders like Pablo and Santiago.
All that’s left to do is to get over the hump and establish a new reputation as the “Top Dog” in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball tournament.
Upside: Jaja Santiago and Myla Pablo. The towering Santiago grew an inch and a half from her height of 6-foot-4 last year and improved a lot with titles in the Shakey’s V-League against Ateneo de Manila and in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix with Foton in the pre-season. Pablo showed her power in the PSL and in the international arena (Asian U-23 and Asian Seniors), a big boost in her morale heading to the UAAP season.
Downside: High expectations mean heavier pressure. It’s up to the Lady Bulldogs if they’ll crack or just brush it aside to reach their goal.
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