Doc Volleyball: How the Lady Maroons remained alive

AJ Pareja on Mar 31, 2017 11:44 AM
Doc Volleyball: How the Lady Maroons remained alive
UP has come roaring back to show us a glimpse once more of the team that made them season front-runners early in the first round.

Just when we thought that the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons had minimized their chances in claiming a Final Four spot, they came roaring back to show us a glimpse once more of the team that made them season front-runners early in the first round. The National University Lady Bulldogs, who were expected to seal their Final Four stint coming off a major win against Ateneo, are now once again on rough waters after being dispatched by the Maroons 25-14, 25-27, 25-21, 25-12.

Throughout the match the Lady Maroons capitalized on aggressive serving to exploit the still struggling reception of the Lady Bulldogs. NU had bursts of momentum aided by exceptional blocking during the second and third set but it was ultimately UP’s well placed serves and NU’s lack of floor patrol that determined the game.

Set 1: 25-14 UP

In the first set, UP claimed an early lead through points off service aces and errors of NU. UP’s Isa Molde blasted a couple of aces in zone 5, if not disrupting the setup play of NU. Majority of the services of the Maroons were landing on the seams of zone 1 and 6. While UP scored additional aces by targeting this area, it can be noted that NU was able to set up Jaja Santiago in the middle when UP’s serve landed directly on zone 6. In expected fashion, NU had the most successful attacks from middle hits while the Maroons were successful in severely limiting the Lady Bulldogs’ wings. UP’s Tots Carlos provided much of the firepower mid-set with commendable transition counter-attack kills whenever NU was unable to make a first point conversion.

Set 2: 27-25 NU

In the second set, NU was finally able to get their service-receive game as evidenced by their more successful attack output. NU’s Aiko Urdas and Santiago were consistent in targeting zone 5 which was enough to force UP to set up highballs, which NU then capitalized on in blocking.

While Santiago’s backrow attack has been a significant addition to the NU arsenal, the Lady Bulldogs still struggle in maximizing it due to erratic defensive patterns. In a lot of rallies, Santiago still goes to defend in zone 5, which disables her from hitting from the back.

On the other hand, UP had more variation with their offense with Aiesha Gannaban being a revelation for the opposite position. It is observable that Arielle Estranero is getting better at shooting tempo plays to the left wing.

Set 3: 25-21 UP

During the third set, UP had a major lead in the early and mid-set. Marian Buitre had a long stint in the service line due to her low and flat serving to NU’s zone 1 in which she also scored several aces. Buitre’s serving proved problematic for the Bulldogs as they were forced to return easy balls. UP setter Estranero was quick to exploit these free balls with transition tempo attacks to Molde from the left wing.

However, just when UP seemed to be counting the third set as theirs, NU built a significant momentum from Urdas’ aggressive serving into UP’s zone 5. Urdas’ service location hampered UP’s play since Buitre was pinned in zone 4 throughout their momentum run. The Lady Bulldogs were able to tie the game despite a 17-5 deficit during the start. The Lady Maroons nonetheless were able to finally adjust their attack and blocking at the end game to claim the set.

Set 4: 25-12 UP

The fourth set of the match was a reflection of the first set in which NU’s passing was severely impaired by UP’s aggressive serving. UP has definitely improved on their transition counter attack with much help from their better serving. On the other hand, despite the fact that Santiago’s backrow attack has been a significant addition to NU’s arsenal in the second round, the Lady Bulldogs have struggled maximizing it due to erratic floor defense patterns. There are still several moments where Santiago is defending zone 5 in which she takes a big number of free balls. Santiago, if she is to hit more backrow attacks, would have better chances of winding up for the kill if she is to commit in defending zone 6. In line with that, more than just passing and digging balls up, NU libero Gayle Valdez will be crucial in ensuring that Santiago is defending the best position for a back row setup.

Final Four Implications

It is quite interesting to note that both team’s remaining games are both against UST and FEU. These four teams have been the highlight of this season as they battle out the spots for the Final Four in rock-paper-scissors fashion.

For UP, they would need to maintain their momentum through their aggressive serving and transition counter attack. One thing that UP can improve on is increasing the height of their digs and pass to ensure that Estranero can establish her footing while setting and so that the plays are fast but not rushed.

On the other hand, NU is hard-pressed to improve their passing and digging formation in order for teams to not exploit their struggling service-receive game. Valdez would be crucial to step up her game not just in her individual performance but also in serving as the back captain. She should ensure that Santiago is always defending in an ideal location that would enable her to hit back row attacks. In line with that, NU can certainly increase their output from the right wing to ensure that the left wing will not draw too much blocks. 

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