UAAP VOLLEYBALL FINALS: Battle of Kid Santos’ protégés
Mark Escarlote on Apr 24, 2018 06:02 PM
The UAAP Season 80 women's championship will feature the showdown of two excellent and talented coaches forged by hands of Far Eastern University's legendary volleyball coach Kid Santos.
It’s just a few days away before the much-anticipated battle for UAAP Season 80 women’s volleyball supremacy between the grand slam-seeking De La Salle University Lady Spikers and the title hungry Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws.
But even before the blazing action of the best-of-three championship series begins, one man is already smiling and probably very proud of the legacy he has left behind.
Steering the Lady Spikers in their 10th straight Finals appearance is a multi-titled mentor in Ramil de Jesus. A man who for two decades changed DLSU’s volleyball program and gave the Taft-based school 10 titles.
On the other side is George Pascua, a true-blue FEU product who delivered UAAP titles during his playing days and when he mentored the men’s team. Pascua is now looking to bring back the old glory of the Lady Tamaraws.
Both are great disciplinarians.
No-nonsense coaches who value character, hard work and dedication more than popularity and fanfare.
Coaches whose systems rely on teamwork rather than individual talent, mastering the basics of offense and defense while turning their wards into versatile workers and team players.
True men of the sport.
Characters they inherited and influenced by a man considered as the father of FEU volleyball: the late great Florentino "Kid" Santos.
The championship series won’t just be about a present power battling a traditional powerhouse, it will also be a showdown between two students who learned their craft from a treasured Filipino volleyball master.
Santos, who passed away November last year at the age of 67 due to cardiac arrest, brought FEU to numerous titles as a player and continued to do so as a mentor for the Tams and Lady Tams.
He played a big role in the school’s total of 54 championships in both divisions and steered FEU to 19 of its 29 women’s crowns. Santos also handled the national team multiple times.
But what made Santos great is the number of players he discovered and molded into stars under his Spartan-like training and strict discipline.
That list includes De Jesus and Pascua.
“Si Coach Ramil outside hitter siya na napakagaling rumeceive, napakabilis ng bola,” recalled Pascua after the postgame interview moments after twice-to-beat FEU booted out Ateneo de Manila University in the Final Four to for the Lady Tams’ first Finals appearance since Season 71.
“(Ako) middle pero napakagaling ko rumeceive din kasi walang libero noon eh,” he added, drawing laughter inside the press room. “Kaya nga tinitingnan namin noong time namin walang palitan ng libero ang gagaling namin rumeceive.”
Pascua was in his rookie year when he played alongside De Jesus, who was then in his swan song.
De Jesus was spectacular, Pascua was a promising talent when they marched together in battle with Santos at the helm.
With the two playing together, FEU conquered Season 54 for the Tams' back-to-back titles.
“Pumasok ako 91. Eh 92 siya grumaduate. So last playing year niya, first year ako. Pero nagpang-abot kami sa UAAP,” added Pascua, who would eventually win two more.
In a light moment during the start of the men’s Final Four at the MOA Arena last Saturday, Pascua and De Jesus were spotted seated together watching the match between FEU and three-time defending champion Blue Eagles.
They were talking, laughing and were horsing around while reminiscing their playing days.
“Puro kalokohan lang 'yun, wala sa volleyball. Nu’ng time namin, nagku-kwentuhan kami, sabi namin, 'Biruin mo 'yung UP (gym) noon, noong naglalaro tayo, halos hindi mapuno, kahit isang layer lang ng ganoon (seats), tapos nanonood pa 'yung nasa lapag lang, sa UP noong time naming,'” said Pascua. “Tapos nakakasilaw, pag umuulan, tumutulo. Pero tingnan mo o, ang dami, libo-libo ang nanonood.”
“Sabi namin, ibang klase ang volleyball ngayon. Hindi kami naging part ng ganito karaming ano pero naging part kami,” added Pascua. “Sabi niya, naging part pa rin tayo kaya naging successful ang volleyball. Sabi niya may contribution pa rin tayo. Kasi (ang usapan naming) about volleyball, mga past namin, kung gaano lumaki ang volleyball kumpara noon hanggang ngayon.”
De Jesus in his postgame interview, the day after, shared that it was fun chatting and joking around with his former teammate.
“Wala naman kaming pinag-uusapan, ine-enjoy lang namin 'yung game,” said De Jesus, whose squad dismantled National University in straight sets on Sunday. “Dumaan kasi accidentally si Sir (Mark) Molina. Sabi niya dapat bigyan ng t-shirt 'yan si Coach Ramil. So 'yun, kaya kinukulit niya ako, kasi T-shirt ang binibigay, jacket ang kinuha. Sabi ko 'di ako magsusuot ng jacket. 'Yun ata ang kulitan namin na nakunan (ng TV camera).”
Unfortunately, they witnessed the twice-to-beat Tams fall in five-sets against the 55-point onslaught of Ateneo ace Marck Espejo.
About 24 hours after that, De Jesus set up a Finals date with Pascua’s Lady Tams.
They will be after each other’s neck starting April 28 at the Big Dome.
Long after their playing careers have passed, both found a new calling: coaching.
Learning under the tutelage of Santos, Pascua and De Jesus passed on to their wards the same discipline they had under the FEU legend and gave new twists to the system used by their former mentor.
De Jesus was tapped by DLSU to help with their women’s volleyball program. He was the messiah the Taft-based squad had been waiting for.
Under his watch, the Lady Spikers transformed into a UAAP superpower collecting 10 titles overall.
Pascua stayed with FEU, helping the Tams achieve a three-peat in Season 67 to 69 as the head coach. He steered FEU to its last championship in Season 74.
Pascua and De Jesus eventually crossed paths as women’s team mentors in the 2014 Philippine Superliga Grand Prix.
The younger mentor handled a powerhouse team in Petron Blaze Spikers while De Jesus built Generika behind his DLSU products.
Pascua got the better of De Jesus in four sets in the winner-take-all championship round led by American import Alaina Bergsma and Brazilian setter Erica Adachi.
He duplicated his feat the following tournament in the All-Filipino Conference as Petron swept De Jesus’ Shopinas.com Clickers in the best-of-three Finals series.
Now on their third head-to-head match in four years, Pascua knows that his commercial league successes won’t matter in De Jesus’ turf.
“Champion coach si Coach Ramil, ‘yung team niya may championship experience. Napakagaling na coach niya,” he said.
Though working on a team with a disadvantage in terms on experience in the Finals, De Jesus holds high respect on Pascua’s coaching.
Being a product of FEU like him, Pascua won’t back out from a fight.
“Matiyagang tao si George, maganda 'yung ginagawa niya ngayon sa team, and siguro ano, kailangan talaga bantayan 'yung FEU kasi alam ko matiyagang tao 'yun,” said De Jesus.
In this series, the DLSU mentor is expecting a tough challenge.
Both will have their own advantages in their systems and strategies built on the backbone of Santos’ system.
“Kasi bawat coach kasi may kanya-kanyang sistema, so maaring may mga part na nakuha niya dun kay Coach Kid, pero siyempre bawat coach, may gustong gawin sa team na hindi niya na dala-dala 'yung ibang sistema ng naging mentor,” said De Jesus.
Whatever the result of the series, whichever shade of green will come up on top, one thing is for sure, the great FEU mentor Santos will surely have a hand in it.
Santos’ legacy will have an influence on both sides, whether the title goes to Morayta or to Taft.
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