After losing Game 1 of the best-of-three series against the Ateneo Lady Eagles last Tuesday, the Tigresses of University of Santo Tomas are once again in danger of ending one of the most celebrated streaks in Philippine Volleyball; their V-league Finals appearance.
Since the inception of the Shakey’s V-league, UST has managed to either be the bridesmaids or, most of the time, win the tournament. Now on its 10th season, the España-based squad looks polished to once again battle it out to the end. With homegrown talents Aiza Maizo and Rhea Dimaculangan as guest players, the spectators saw the dominance they seem to have lost last UAAP.
So what exactly went wrong?
“They were really good with their adjustments. After losing the first set, they changed their rotation and pitted the veteran Jeng Bualee against the very young Jessey De Leon. It was a mismatch.” said Head Coach Odjie Mamon.
In Assistant Coach Vilet Ponce De Leon’s opinion, their shaky reception was the final nail in the coffin. According to her “With Ateneo having a feast with their great serves, we actually helped them achieve their goal of winning with our bad reception. Sipag ng kalaban plus katamaran namin, that spelled the difference.”
Now with pressure weighing down on them, the rabid UST fans are one in asking “Is it really the end of the long V-league streak?”
“Nakita naman natin yung kalibre nung apat na teams. I would like to believe that we are at par with them when it comes to the skills. What we need now is mental toughness from the girls. If they can master that, then it’s not yet over. We could still win this.” said Mamon.
Coach Vilet, on the other hand quipped “Right from the beginning, our focus was really to improve our current roster for Season 76. And I think we already achieved that. Pero sana andun ulet. Sana makabalik because the girls are really aching to be in the Finals.”
On my end, watching the girls train the day before Game 2, I saw something change. There was fire in their eyes. There was focus. And there was the will to fight and hunger to win.
Wing spiker Carmela Tunay agrees “I’ll do this for my idol Nang Aiza Maizo. Yung sakripisyo pa lang niya na bumalik dito at iwan yung family niya, it really means a lot to me. I can see how painful it is for her to see the people who used to adore her are now cheering for another team. I want us to win para maibalik namin yung tiwala ng mga tao. Na kami pa rin ang UST team na minahal nila. Nadapa lang kami pero babangon at babangon kami. Lalaban kami.”
With everything at stake, we can expect the girls to go all out to force a do-or-die game on Sunday. It seems almost impossible but that is exactly the reason why we fell in love with them. They are full of ups and downs. Their campaigns are always full of drama. This team is anything but boring. And they are more than ready to take us on another roller coaster ride wherein we will scream, shout, be happy and get scared all at the same time.
And to close my interview with him, Coach Odji very confidently adds “Oo. Babalik tayo sa Ultra sa Sunday for Game 3.”
I don’t know if he’s just taunting the opponent, teasing the fans or he’s actually that sure of his chances on today’s game but I have a feeling this series won’t end here. I guess as a fan, that’s just how I am wired. To refuse to believe that my team will lose. THE EMPIRE DOES NOT END HERE! And if I’m wrong, I only have two things to say. One, it is not the first time. And two, I am one with the millions of fans who believed in them all the way.
Let’s do this! GO USTe!!!