The year UP Women’s Volleyball returned to the Final FourNovember 27, 2017
by Mark Joseph Escarlote
UAAP Season 78 is a magical year for University of the Philippines women’s volleyball.
Even months before the start of 2016 season, the State U community was already abuzz with bright hopes of finally seeing the Lady Maroons end a 13-year Final Four drought.
Head coach Jerry Yee is equipped with the pieces to make the Diliman-based squad compete against the powerhouse teams that have dominated the tournament like the De La Salle University, Far Eastern University, National University, and the Alyssa Valdez-led Ateneo de Manila University.
Veterans Nicole Tiamzon, a healthier Kathy Bersola and Pia Gaiser were in their fourth year. Add newcomers Isa Molde, Mae Basarte and Justine Dorog, who are all Hope Christian High School standouts under Yee, and a power-hitter in Diana Carlos, the Lady Maroons looked like a team ready to compete.
The Lady Maroons did not disappoint, masterfully defeating University of the East to open their campaign.
But UP’s consecutive collisions against the Lady Spikers and the Lady Eagles resulted in back-to-back losses. The Lady Maroons bounced back mightily with a victory over Adamson University only to hit another wall this time against FEU.
UP’s sputtering performances proved to be just a minor hiccup as the Lady Maroons turned their season around with an impressive four-game winning run in the last two matches of the first round up to the first two games in the second half of the elimination round including a win that served as the squad’s defining moment.
University of Sto. Tomas and NU all bowed to UP to end the first round, then they crossed paths again with Ateneo.
Going into the second round, the Lady Eagles were still hurting after archrival DLSU snapped their 24-game winning streak.
A win against the Lady Maroons is a good way for Ateneo to regain its confidence.
The odds were on the Lady Eagles’ side too –- a glaring fact that UP has been on the losing end of their head-to-head matches for nine straight years.
But this batch of Lady Maroons were determined to put an end to their string of futilities against their Katipunan neighbors.
The duo of Molde, the eventual Rookie of the Year winner, and Carlos powered the Lady Maroons to a four-set win, upsetting Ateneo and handing the Lady Eagles their first consecutive losses since Season 76.
Riding the crest of its morale-boosting win, UP followed it up with another win over Adamson before bowing down to DLSU. Following a win over UE, the Lady Maroons absorbed back-to-back losses against NU and FEU.
Facing UST in a crucial match to secure a Final Four spot, UP threw everything it got to escape the Tigresses and put a foot at the semis – a spot that has been eluding the Lady Maroons for so long.
It didn’t take long for all UP faithful to celebrate the Lady Maroons’ date to a Final Four appearance. A loss by NU to DLSU to end the eliminations formally handed the semis ticket to UP.
In an unfamiliar territory with its crew lacking experience, the Lady Maroons succumbed to the top seed Lady Eagles in straight sets.
A painful loss to end their campaign.
But what UP accomplished that season was a testament that the Lady Maroons have changed their volleyball culture into a winning one.