MANILA, Philippines – National University (NU) head coach Norman Miguel was satisfied with what the Lady Bulldogs achieved in UAAP Season 81, given the expectations for the team heading into the women's volleyball tournament.
With superstar Jaja Santiago gone, and veteran middle blocker Risa Sato academically ineligible, the Lady Bulldogs were not considered a Final 4 contender this year. They had a team full of rookies, and Miguel had taken charge of NU just a couple of months before the season was set to start.
An injury to rookie setter Joyme Cagande in their very first game of the tournament all but dashed NU's hopes. But against all odds, the Lady Bulldogs impressed in Season 81. They won four games, including two five-set victories over preseason favorite University of the Philippines (UP).
"To be honest, ang iniisip lang namin ng coaches, huwag lang kami maging winless in two rounds," Miguel said of their goal for the year, after NU wrapped up its campaign with a loss to UST.
"And it happened. Noong nagkaroon na kami ng first win, sobrang tumaas na 'yung momentum namin na kaya pala. Kaya pala na ma-increase pa namin ang game namin at madagdagan ang wins namin," he added.
"Para sa amin, malaking achievement na nag-four wins, 'di ba? Para sa akin ha. Sobra ito sa ine-expect."
While they were unable to make the Final 4 this year, Miguel still drew solid seasons from his veterans, led by Rose Doria. The NU rookies showed remarkable promise, particularly the pair of Ivy Lacsina and Princess Robles, and libero Jennifer Nierva.
Robles finished as the sixth best scorer in the league, with 190 points, while Lacsina was No. 8 with 178 points. Nierva, for her part, was the second best receiver and fourth best digger in the UAAP.
With plenty of recruits in the pipeline, and Cagande expected to return in time for Season 82, expectations for NU will surely be much higher next year. Certainly, Robles and Lacsina will no longer catch teams off-guard, as they did in their rookie season.
Miguel is confident that his team will be ready for the increased expectations next year.
"Well, doon sa quality naman na pinerform nila, alam mo naman sa next season, meron at meron silang pu-pwestuhan diyan," he said.
"Pero sa tingin ko naman, yung preparation namin for next (season), talagang something to look forward to," the coach added.
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