UAAP 80 PREVIEW: UP Lady Maroons
University of the Philippines is ready and set to go for UAAP Season 80.
Key holdovers: Isa Molde, Tots Carlos, Ayel Estranero, Justine Dorog
Key losses: Nicole Tiamzon, Pia Gaiser, Kathy Bersola
Under a new coach but still fielding a line-up stacked with veterans, expectations remain high for the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons come UAAP Season 80 women’s volleyball starting February 3.
Kenyan mentor Godfrey Okumu, who replaced Jerry Yee during the offseason, sees the experience and familiarity of the Lady Maroons as their biggest advantage in UP’s campaign despite injecting a new system.
The Lady Maroons lost three veterans after Nicole Tiamzon, Kathy Bersola and libero Pia Gaiser graduated last year, but they still have a solid core composed of third-year hitters Isa Molde, Tots Carlos and Justine Dorog and fourth-year setter Ayel Estranero.
Together with some new faces in Roselyn Rossier and Cynthia Escutin, Okumu has a good mix of youth and experience at his disposal.
“Yes, three years is a long time for a team to play together. What I think is, they should have won. Because three years, the same team, it's quite a long time,” said Okumu, a Japan-based volleyball coach.
“But I think the players, they know each other, and as I said before, I'm not trying to change the way they play. What I'm trying to do is to improve whatever they have, so that they can make it faster. If they can spike, then spike stronger. If they can pass, then they can pass better,” he added.
“So everything, I'm trying to improve -- speed, power, and accuracy. Otherwise, this is the same team. So I hope by changing the speed, the way they pass, the way they spike, and improving their power, I think we will get somewhere.”
The Diliman-based squad is looking to return in the Final Four after missing the cut last year and ending up at fifth spot with a 7-7 win-loss record. UP ended a 13-year semis drought in Season 78.
Okumu has high hopes in their campaign despite his wards still adapting to his system since he came in just a couple of months ago.
“UP was and I believe is going to still be a strong team,” said Okumu, who first met the squad two years ago when he helped Yee train the squad in a 2-day training camp he conducted.
“We've been working on our pass and backcourt defense, and it's coming out nicely,” added Okumu. “We're still working on the service. So if we can serve well, then we are all set and ready to go.”
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