'Academic excellence' brought these five rookies to the UP Lady Maroons
These five new faces for the Lady Maroons have transitioned well to the style of new head coach Godfrey Okumu. (From L to R: Cynthia Escutin, Abigail Lim, Roselyn Rosier, Patricia Siao, and Josette Thai)
If one would ask any Isko or Iska why they chose studying for the premier state university, they would always take pride in its academic standing, as the university is always touted as one of the top schools in the world.
The same reasons apply for these five Lady Maroon rookies on why they chose UP, aside from the obvious fact that they wanted to play volleyball.
From different schools, these five women knew exactly what they wanted as student-athletes, utilizing UP's 'academic excellence' as a springboard for much better things to come in the future, whether it be on or off the court.
After just barely missing the Final Four last year with a 7-7 slate, and with the team in transition from Jerry Yee to Kenyan Godfrey Okumu as their mentors, the Lady Maroons surely hope that they can bank in on the veteran play and leadership of Diana Carlos, Isa Molde, Justine Dorog and Ayel Estrañero.
Many eyes will be set on Estrañero's reliever, setter Cynthia Escutin, who was recruited from Mounds View Senior High in Minnesota, and see if she can be a solid contributor as a rookie.
The 18-year old Escutin has already raved about the lessons Estrañero has imparted, leaving her a lot to desire for in learning through the ropes in her first, slowly making the transition as Estrañero starts her fourth playing year.
"Actually, what I knew about setting, just because there's so much more, with how fast you should be, and with how fast the defense is. Smart thinking and smart plays. I just realized, I still I have a lot to learn," the sports science major said.
In the words of wing spiker Abbie Lim, who is a Statistics major, balancing her academics and practice have posed as a challenge for her to succeed, although the much more grueling part of the season has not caught up to her yet.
The 18-year old hopes that she can flourish with the help of her seniors. "Since I'm just a freshman, I know it will only get harder, but as the ates in the team have shown, it's doable."
Meanwhile for these three women who have been in the team for several years but are just playing in their first playing year, transition from the mentorship of Yee, who decided to focus more on the professional circuit, to Okumu, a Kenyan who had lived in Japan for the past 17 years, has been quite fun.
Roselyn Rosier, an opposite and outside spiker, who was eyed by Yee even when she used to play for Brent International School, transition has been quite 'overwhelming' but the team's collective excitement for playing in a new style definitely was more important to her.
"Knowing that coach is from Japan and like, Japan teams are great, so like I was super excited, all of us were. And the training was very difficult, but as the same time, we just felt that we were improving in every way," the 19-year old said.
Rosier added that Isa Molde has taken her under her wing, with the rookie trying to become like a sponge in absorbing every drop of lessons her ate was trying to impart. "I don't second guess to listen to her or not."
For Visual communication junior Patricia Siao, transition from Yee to Okumu was quite 'overwhelming and hard', especially when the team was in the period of not having a head coach, but when the wheels started rolling for the team when Okumu already took the driver's seat, the team came up as one stronger and more determined to conform to their new coach's more fast-paced style.
"There were things that we got used to that now it's different. Now it's different. it's more healthy environment, because we're closer, I guess," the 20-year old said.
"Like the time we didn't have a coach, we had to be there more for each other, and support each other, especially with the assistant coaches, so in a way that bonded us and made us stronger."
In the case of libero Josette Thai, much like her ates in the team, transition was hard, since the style that they were used to and the new implemented one were polar opposites.
"From coach Jerry to Okumu, syempre maraming adjustments, especially the first few times that we started training with coach Okumu because the way he plays and the way we play are really different. And there were a lot of learning and unlearning that we had to do, mahirap talaga siya pag nakasanayan mo na.
The Okumu effect
As for the one thing they see in this season, the rookies, and the holdovers are very much excited playing for Okumu and his new fast-paced style. Despite getting pushed hard in their training this offseason, these players have only postive things to say about their new tactician.
"He's very encouraging kasi and he corrects you. You can see in him talaga that he loves the sport. He really wants to see you learn and improve talaga," Thai said.
"Coach Okumu has a lot of knowledge, which is something that we really need, it's gonna help us a lot in out future games," Escutin added.
These student athletes encourage the very supportive UP community to watch and see the changes the team had already made for the better, and hope that these changes will lead to their second Final Four apperance in three years.
follow this writer on Twitter, @philipptionary.