It means a lot of pressure – Okumu on UP’s pre-season romp
Mark Escarlote on Dec 21, 2018 05:12 PM
High expectations and pressure await University of the Philippines in the UAAP after winning two titles in the pre-season.
Two women’s volleyball titles in the pre-season means a lot for University of the Philippines.
For the faithful, it’s the fruit of the school’s long and arduous task of building and training a competitive team. An accomplishment and a source of pride for the Diliman-based squad, which for years lagged behind compared to other schools’ volleyball program.
For the players, those trophies serve as morale-booster that will fuel their drive to achieve more success.
However, those mints also mean high expectations and pressure to live up to the hype coming into the UAAP Season 81 two months from now.
A fact that head coach Godfrey Okumu knows too well.
“It means a lot of pressure. For them and for me. That's what it means,” said the second year mentor after the Lady Maroons beat University of Sto. Tomas in their Philippine Superliga Collegiate Grand Slam title showdown Thursday.
The Lady Maroons ended a long championship drought last September after defeating Far Eastern University in the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference Finals to hoist their first major tournament title since winning it all in the 1982 edition of the UAAP.
In those tournaments, Okumu utilized different lineups with star hitters Isa Molde and Tots Carlos suiting up alternately in the PVL and PSL, respectively.
Carlos skipped the PVL to recover from an injury while Molde got a much-deserved rest as she sat out the whole PSL tournament.
“I've tried all my players in these preseason games. I've played almost 28, at least 25 or 26 players. I've been able to recycle them in all the tournaments we've played,” said Okumu, whose squad received a P350,000 prize money for winning the PSL Grand Slam.
With his two units delivering crowns in the pre-season, Okumu now faces another dilemma: choosing his final lineup for the UAAP.
“It's gonna be hard to choose, so don't ask me my line-up for UAAP, because I don't know,” he said. “We played well, and everybody gave... We had a trophy, and this is the second one. It's just a big pressure, and just hoping for the best.”
Still, the feat they achieved in the pre-season attested his belief to the team he inherited after UP parted ways with former coach Jerry Yee last year.
“I believe since two or three years ago, this team was a champion team, and it was just a matter of time,” said Okumu, who first met the team during a training camp a couple of years back.
“But as I said before, big pressure. UAAP is another game altogether. We only played against three of the other teams. So, I don't wanna judge ourselves before playing against everybody else,” he added. “So yes, we want to go out there and win the UAAP, but we have to tread carefully.”
“We have to be polite as we move on, train, work hard. Because it's a really big challenge for us, and we wouldn't like to play so well in the offseason, and when the real tournament comes up, we don't perform,” said Okumu. “So I believe, it puts us in a very tight situation, but the fight is there. So we're gonna fight until the end.”
Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles