NU LADY BULLDOGS: Less is more
Mark Escarlote on Jan 30, 2017 03:56 PM
National University marches into battle with a lean crew.
Less is more.
National University will parade a depleted squad into UAAP Season 79 after the departure of some key players.
The Lady Bulldogs still have the towering Jaja Santiago ang power-hitting Jorelle Singh in the fold, but head coach Roger Gorayeb will only have 11 players at his disposal.
It could be a problem for other teams but not for the NU squad.
The Lady Bulldogs are confident that they can return to the Final Four or even barge in the championship round this coming UAAP Season 79 even with limited number of available players.
“Parang ‘yung laging sinasabi ng iba na less is more. Kumbaga kahit kaunti kami hindi kawalan ‘yun sa amin. Mas advantage pa siya para sa akin,” said third year player Singh.
NU lost most of its last year’s core after the graduation of Myla Pablo and setter Ivy Perez. Rica Diolan, Marites Pablo and Bia General all bolted out of the team after last season.
Holdovers from last year are young setter Jasmin Nabor, Aiko Urdas, Roma Doromal, Lamie Aberin, Audrey Paran, libero Gayle Valdez, Roselyn Doria and Joni Chavez.
Newcomer Filipino-Japanese Risa Sato is expected to add more firepower for the Lady Bulldogs, who finished fifth in Season 78 after three straight Final Four appearances.
"Wala na po kaming idadagdag, wala na kaming ibabawas. Yun na lang po talaga kami, 11. Sinasabi ni coach na mag-ingat kami sa injury kasi kailangan namin ang isa’t isa talaga," Singh said. "Pero huwag naming isipin na porke’t 11 kami hindi namin magagawa ang goal namin. Isipin lang namin na 11 lang kami pero magagawa namin ang goal namin kahit kaunti kami."
Depsite having a lean crew, the team had excellent offseason exposures including a second straight V-League Collegiate Conference crown and a training stint in Japan. The Lady Bulldogs look sharper than ever before.
Santiago, who also won a title in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix for Foton and gained valuable experience playing in the 2016 Asian Women’s Club Volleyball Championship and FIVB Women’s Club World Championship, said that she sees more potential with her team this year.
“Actually mas kompiyansa ako sa team ko ngayon,” said the 6-foot-5 middle blocker. “Nakikita ko na mas disiplinado ang team namin and nakikita ko na mas nakakapag-focus sa amin si coach Roger (Gorayeb).
She pointed out that they are playing better knowing that with just 11 members they have to work harder as one cohesive unit.
“Nakikita ko na mas gumana ang teamwork namin. Actually noong naging 11 kami sabi namin hindi naman namin kailangang maghanap ng iba pang teammates o hindi naman na namin hanapin ang wala,” she added. “Ang kailangan na lang namin ay patibayin kung ano ang natitira. ‘Yun ang ginagawa namin.”
With Santiago and their open hitters having good chemistry with Nabor’s playmaking, the expectations are high for the Lady Bulldogs.
But Santiago and the rest of the squad would rather play their game and from there just look at where it would take them.
“Ang goal namin this season is to play as a team, a strong team tapos hindi namin kailangang madaliin ang lahat. Dapat step-by-step haggang sa makuha namin ang goal naming,” said Santiago. “Marami ang nagsasabi na kailangang makabalik na kayo ng semifinals o umabot ng championship pero siyempre kailangang hindi kami ma-pressure. Step-by-step lang para makuha ang goal namin and di namin kailangang madaliin.”
NU opens its campaign on February 4 against University of the East at the Big Dome.
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