Doc Volleyball: Breaking Down the UE Lady Warriors vs UP Lady Maroons
UP might have prevailed, 25-16, 26-24, 25-19, but UE made the Lady Maroons earn the victory.
In what could be considered as their most exciting outing to date, the University of the East Lady Warriors (UE) held their own against the rampaging University of the Philippines Lady Maroons (UP). State U might have prevailed, 25-16, 26-24, 25-19, but UE made them earn the victory.
While it can be argued that their previous season’s win over Adamson University (AdU) that ended a 58-game losing streak was a monumental feat for the Recto-based squad, the Lady Warriors going cut throat against no other than the Lady Maroons, highlighted by an intriguing match-up between converted setters, has proven to us that they are no longer the pushover squad from seasons past.
Coming off from a tough match-up with one of the season contenders in National University (NU), the Lady Warriors had all eyes on the Lady Maroons if they can go beyond their recent performance most especially in the blocking department where they outscored NU. It was quite evident from the first set against UP that these Lady Warriors are the real deal in the blocking department. Boasting of increased height at the net early on, UE was able to disrupt UP’s offense in such a way that their wing attackers rarely hit line shots and had to force their way through with mostly angle shots.
UE head coach Francis Vicente has to be credited for his decision to convert middle blocker Roselle Baliton into a setter to bolster their net defense. Raising some eyebrows with such decision in the previous season, Vicente has now shown us the quintessential reason for such conversion. Baliton’s blocking presence in the right wing has proven to be a crucial factor in forcing the UP wings to avoid the lines and primarily go for cross court hits. The Lady Warriors, despite losing the match, out-blocked UP with a staggering 14-3 performance.
Mean Maroon Machine
With what could be considered as the best match-up scheduled amongst other teams, UP was expected to come off with an easy 2-0 team standing early on. Basing on performances from the previous season, AdU and UE would have been early pushovers to secure a good standing for UP. Despite winning the match in straight sets, UP had their early share of facing adversity from a surging UE squad. No longer just a final four candidate, but an actual series contender, UP actually benefited from this tight match since it gave them an early opportunity to test not only their synchronicity as a team but their mental fortitude as well.
Having a converted rookie setter in Ayel Estranero, the Lady Maroons showcased their attack prowess despite the barrier put up by the Lady Warriors. While UP can be considered to have the most seasoned wings and middles individually, the team’s scoring capability still heavily relies on Estranero. From the get go, the Lady Warriors have put up a solid defense on the net but Estranero’s ball distribution was commendable in circumventing that wall. Like perfectly fitting gears, the UP hitters have found in Estranero an engine to make them run smoothly.
Roselle Baliton – C
While Baliton has to be credited for her significant contribution in net defense, she is yet to perform superbly in her primary role which is setting. Despite the commendable block output of UE, they didn’t fare as well in the attack department listing only 18 successful hits for the entire duration of the match. It was pretty evident in the match that Baliton still has some struggles in putting up the ball in an ideal location that maximizes the hitting potential of her spikers.
This struggle is best exemplified by Shaya Adorador’s outing of just 5 hits although she is considered the best attacking option of UE. With her commendable build and athleticism, Adorador is expected to be racking up the points especially now that she has been assigned the opposite wing position. It is noticeable though, especially with their transition attack, that Baliton’s setup is still inconsistent with Adorador having to deal with balls either too far from the net or too short from the pins.
It can be considered that Baliton has indeed embraced the setter position yet she still needs vital support from her teammates especially from passing and floor defense. One good strategy coach Vicente can utilize is ensuring that the first pass and dig are high enough for Baliton to establish her footing. While UE libero Kath Arado is to be commended for manning the floor, she is yet to establish a stable and consistent connection with Baliton. Throughout the match, Baliton was chasing low balls too much leading to her limited setting range.
Although having excessively high first ball can be misunderstood to slow down the offense, it is quite the contrary since Baliton would definitely be able to run faster offense if she can establish her ground. With her built, she has the upper body strength enough to shoot the pins and run fast enough plays with consistency.
Ayel Estranero – B
Having a fully loaded team of seasoned hitters, Estranero has all the offensive options at her disposal. Indeed, her ball distribution was the crucial factor for the match yet it should be considered that UE was still able to tally a big number in blocks. It is to be noted also that from here on, UP would be facing taller teams like NU and De La Salle University (DLSU). As such, UP can’t just rely on good ball distribution to mitigate a good blocking team.
It was obvious that the UP hitters were avoiding the line on rotations when Baliton is upfront. While her height is definitely an intimidating factor, UP wings could have actually used it to their advantage. Baliton is tall but she is still quite loose at the tape as she is yet to show consistency in her pressing on the block. This would have been the perfect opportunity for UP’s wings to tool her block and go for check balls. Given that they will soon face tall blockers from other teams, UP would benefit in identifying the ability (or lack thereof) of these tall blockers to press in the net. Tooling the block however would be heavily reliant on Estranero setting up a ball high enough to maximize the reach of her hitters.
Overall, UP had better floor to setter connection compared to UE. Aside from the occasional shanks on the pass and digs at crucial rallies, UP can definitely benefit from enhancing their technical execution in order to get Estranero in a good position. Estranero did an exemplary job in simplifying UP’s offense and this would be highly beneficial for the team to win their transition defense with ease. Coming up against tougher opponents from here on, the Lady Maroons can definitely utilize faster sets to the pins. Shoot sets would be ideal for UP since their middles are formidable on the attack which can then translate to a lot of single blocks for the wings if Estranero can deliver it fast enough. In line with that, UP can definitely use sharper angle shots like those of Nicole Tiamzon to ease through the block and floor defense. Since most open hitters tend to defend the deep angle, the sharp cross is a reliable option to rack in the points for UP. That is of course possible if Estranero can locate the ball at a good height and with enough space from the net for her hitter to angle adequately.