Slow starts a problem as UST wraps up first round with a streak


UST Tigresses in the UAAP Season 85 women's volleyball tournament. –UAAP PHOTO

UST Tigresses in the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball tournament. –UAAP PHOTO

The University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses found themselves where they wanted to be at the end of their first-round schedule in the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball tournament.

The National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs will be counting the days before they can say the same thing.

For now, the defending champions feel they have to work on a few things before a key—and, on so many levels, familiar—showdown against the tournament’s currently undefeated leader.

“We have to fix our mindset,” said Sheena Toring, after helping the Lady Bulldogs to a 25-21, 25-9, 25-18 victory over Far Eastern University (FEU) on Saturday. “In some games, we have on-and-off moments. Of course, we need to improve that especially since this is La Salle we’re facing [next].”

NU takes its 5-1 (win-loss) record to a titanic showdown against undefeated La Salle (5-0) on Wednesday, but before that, Toring hopes the Lady Bulldogs learn to get their game going early.

“We need our fire right away in the first set for us to win,” she said.

The first set posed a problem, too, for the Tigresses, who were ambushed in the first set by the University of the East (UE) Lady Warriors before they eventually cruised to a 30-32, 25-18, 25-16, 25-14 victory at Filoil EcoOil Arena.

“We have to work on our intensity on the court. We were always reminded that we shouldn’t keep our intensity at the level of our opponent’s but aim to do better,’’ said UST star Eya Laure.

UST will go into the second round with a 5-2 record and a plan to do even better than in the first round.

“Our coaches consistently remind us to overachieve by always aiming to do better,’’ said Laure after dishing out a ruthless kill at match point to close out her 18-point performance.

“We ended the first round on a high note,’’ said UST coach Kungfu Reyes. “This is a big morale booster going into the next round. It will come as an additional motivation as we try to surpass what we’ve accomplished.’’


NU Lady Bulldogs in the UAAP Season 85 women's volleyball tournament. –UAAP PHOTO

Bella Belen and NU Lady Bulldogs in the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball tournament. –UAAP PHOTO

NU can’t think about the next round just yet with a game against La Salle—which is scheduled to play another tough squad in Adamson (4-1) on Sunday—still looming.

And it is a match that will dredge a lot of memories.

The NU-La Salle duel is a rematch of last season’s title series which the Lady Bulldogs dominated. And this year’s Lady Spikers will feature a rising star in Angel Canino, a figure familiar to Toring and reigning Most Valuable Player Bella Belen.

Canino powered a La Salle-Zobel squad that ended a four-year high school reign of Belen, Toring and the Nazareth School of National University in 2018.

“Of course, we’re excited [to play against La Salle]. It’s been a long while since we faced her [Canino] so we’re looking forward to Wednesday,” Belen said.

“Now, they have a go-to player,” she added after firing 16 points in the win against FEU. “They have really improved when compared to before. Now, they’re really fighting and hitting so it’s going to be a challenge for us. We’ll prepare and come back to ourselves, looking at what we need to improve on.”

“We’ll go back to the drawing board, especially since they [La Salle] have a game tomorrow,” said NU coach Karl Dimaculangan. “We’ll review them and we’ll start to make a game plan then. For now, we’ll just prepare.”

‘Respect our opponents’

Alyssa Solomon also delivered against the Lady Tamaraws with 14 points, including 10 attacks, while Princess Robles chipped in 12 points, her last two consecutive kills ending the misery of FEU, which wound up with a 3-4 record entering the second round.

Laure’s power smash through the blocking Riza Nogales capped a 14-attack performance while rookie Regina Jurado accounted for 13 points, including 10 attacks for the Tigresses, who overcame a languid opening set.

“I told my teammates during the huddle that we have to respect our opponents and we should not relax. We have to work on maintaining our intensity on the floor,’’ said Laure, who added six digs and three blocks to her stat line.

Filipino-Italian Milena Alessandrini was likewise on assault mode with 12 points and two service aces, Cassie Carballo had 15 excellent sets while libero Bernadett Pepito registered 14 digs and 18 excellent receptions.

The Tigresses were in total control early in the first set, speeding away at 17-9 and thriving on the Lady Warriors’ miscues.

That’s when they eased up on the gas pedal and inexplicably allowed UE to wipe out the deficit through the heroics of Janeca Lana, KC Cepada and Vanessa Bangayan.

—With a report from Rommel Fuertes Jr.

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