UP LADY MAROONS: Hungry for glory
Mark Escarlote on Jan 31, 2017 02:20 PM
Can University of the Philippines live up to the hype as one of the top title contenders this UAAP Season 79?
The University of the Philippines is one of the title favorites this UAAP Season 79.
Expectations are high for a squad that ended a 13-year Final Four drought last year.
The Lady Maroons have all the pieces to vie for the crown, which the Diliman-based squad last held more than three decades ago.
UP has an intact core, a more mature squad, a perfect mix of young talents and grizzled seniors that share the same hunger for glory in a season open for any team to conquer.
If last year the Lady Maroons are considered a rebuilding team with a flock of fresh talents, this year the Lady Maroons backed by all the experiences they earned from the collegiate wars, stints in three conferences in the V-League and from training in Japan has no excuse not to perform or live up to the hype.
“Siguro, ‘yun kasi ang laging sinasabi ni coach, na kami ‘yung pinaka-matandang team ngayon eh. Walang grumaduate, walang freshman, so parang ine-expect niya at sinasabi niya palagi na kami ‘yung pinaka-matanda, so dapat gumawa kami,” said second year hitter Isa Molde, who was the hands down choice for Season 78 Rookie of the Year award.
“Basta ‘wag lang daw naming isipin na kami pa rin ‘yung pinaka-bata, kasi hindi na. Pero dati din naman, kahit noong Season 78, hindi niya pinapa-feel sa amin na kami ‘yung pinaka-bata,” added Molde, who averaged 12.5 point per game last year. “’Yun na talaga ‘yung totoo, kami ‘yung pinakamatandang team.”
Molde together with Diana Carlos and Justine Dorog provided the explosive firepower of UP last year that complemented the veteran trio of Kathy Bersola, Nicole Tiamzon and libero Princess Gaiser as the Lady Maroons finished at no. 4 for the first time since the school closed Season 65 at the same spot.
They will all be back this season with Tiamzon, Gaiser and Bersola looking to end their collegiate career leaving a winning legacy.
“The goal is to do my best in every game and not waste all the effort and all the years I've put into this,” said fifth year middle Bersola.
Aside from his graduating players, head coach Jerry Yee is all pinning his hopes on his sophomores Molde, Carlos and Dorog.
"Hopefully, nagmature and magmanifest sila sa game. And then, ‘yung katawan physically and strength-wise sana lumakas kasi hindi naman kami tumigil mag-work out. Improvement ang habol namin, core namin talaga sila pa rin, hindi naman na secret ‘yun,” Yee said. “Hopefully maganda ‘yung result this season. We got trainings, different sessions, so yun."
The mentor also made a surprising adjustment during the offseason converting third year player Arielle Estranero from libero to setter to fill the void left by Jewel Lai, who left the team after last season.
“It's a big problem naman talaga so mayroong incident na nawala ‘yung main setter namin so nawala rin ‘yung continuity sana from last year coming into this year,” Yee explained. "Obviously, the whole year we spent time talaga na maghanap ng maghanap and hopefully we found the good fit in Ayelle."
"Yung leadership niya no doubt nandiyan. ‘Yung communication skills niya malaking malaking factor and then ‘yung personality niya,” he added. “Kumbaga lahat ng sinabi ko bukod pa ‘yun sa physical traits niya, able naman siya mabilis naman siya, marunong siya maglaro at magbasa. Konting adjustment na lang naman in converting her to a setter."
The Lady Maroons open their campaign on February 5 against Adamson University on February 5.
Catch the UAAP Season 79 women's volleyball tournament starting February 4, Saturday live on S+A, S+A HD channel 166 and via livestream.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles