MANILA, Philippines—The University of the Philippines Lady Maroons are "heartbroken" over some of the calls made by the referees in their crucial match against University of Santo Tomas on Wednesday, according to head coach Godfrey Okumu.
In a game that had major implications in the UAAP Season 81 Final 4 picture, the Golden Tigresses downed the Lady Maroons in straight sets, 25-21, 25-12, 26-24. The third set was contentious, as UP found itself on the wrong end of two crucial calls in the endgame that Okumu heavily criticized afterward.
"Sometimes I felt they just invented their own rules as far as that set was concerned. It's heartbreaking for the players themselves," Okumu would say after the game.
UP was at set point in the third frame, 24-22, when Jessma Ramos was called for a net violation that had Okumu in disbelief. An attack error by Marian Buitre tied the count at 24, then came the next call that clearly frustrated UP: Ramos was called for over-reaching in the next rally, putting the Golden Tigresses at match point.
UST rookie Eya Laure blocked Buitre in the next rally, and that wrapped up the match for the Golden Tigresses.
Usually very respectful of the game officials, Okumu could not quite let go of the calls that were made after the game.
"Long rallies, and then, one ball is scored over-reaching, something that I've never seen on the planet Earth," he said. "Just, I can see my players very much heartbroken with some of the calls that were made, the last-minute calls, crucial calls."
"I hope in the future we would get better results and the judgment will be done fairly. Today, for the first time, I'll say it felt that some of the decisions, some of the calls were so unfair. That's how my team feels, and that's how I feel as a coach," he added.
Okumu acknowledged that the referees were not to blame entirely. After all, UP did commit plenty of errors on their own.
"Again, we also made our own mistakes, spiking out. But you'd see the reaction of my players, even on court after that call, and the second call. But we don't blame the referees. They're just doing their job, but not in the best interest of one party," he said.
The result of the game means that UP, a preseason favorite to advance to the Final 4, is now on the brink of elimination from the semis race. Their last two games are both must-wins; one more loss will oust the Lady Maroons from contention.
Okumu vows that no matter how dire their situation is, the Lady Maroons will keep fighting.
"We are going to fight. We are going to fight it out. We are going strong. We believe these are games that we have to win, and that's what we're going for," he said.
UP ends its elimination round schedule against two teams that are already out of the running for a Final 4 spot. They play National University on Sunday and Adamson on April 27. They will need to win both games just for the chance to force a playoff for a spot in the semis, while also hoping that UST and Far Eastern University drop their own matches.
"Today was the biggest moment that we should have seized comfortably," said Okumu, acknowledging the opportunity that they let slip. "But like they always say, it's not over until it's over. So we know what's at stake. We're gonna work on it, and we're gonna produce results, yes."
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