Slow starts problem as UST ends first round with streak

UST Tigresses in the UAAP Season 85 Women's Volleyball Tournament.  –PHOTO UAAP

UST Tigresses in the UAAP Season 85 Women’s Volleyball Tournament. –PHOTO UAAP

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 ’85 Women’s Volleyball Tournament.

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

For now, the defending champions feel they need to work on a few things before a key – and, on many levels, familiar – showdown against the currently undefeated tournament leader.

“We have to change our mindset,” Sheena Toring said, after helping the Lady Bulldogs to a win 25-21, 25-9, 25-18 on Far Eastern University (FEU) Saturday. “In some games we have intermittent moments. Of course, we must improve this especially since it is with La Salle that we are confronted [next].”

NU take their 5-1 record (win-loss) in a titanic showdown against unbeaten La Salle (5-0) on Wednesday, but before that Toring hopes the Lady Bulldogs learn to start their game early.

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

The first set also posed a problem for the Tigresses, who were ambushed in the first set by the Lady Warriors of Eastern University (EU) before finally heading to a Victory 30-32, 25-18, 25-16, 25-14 at Filoil EcoOil Arena.

“We have to work on our intensity on the pitch. We were always reminded that we should not keep our intensity at the level of our opponent but aim to do better,” said UST star Eya Laure.

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

“Our coaches constantly remind us to push ourselves harder by always aiming to do better,” Laure said after delivering a ruthless kill on match point to close out her 18-point performance.

“We finished the first round on a high note,” said UST coach Kungfu Reyes. “It’s a big morale booster for the next round. It will come as extra motivation as we try to top what we’ve achieved.”

Memories

NU Lady Bulldogs in the UAAP Season 85 Women's Volleyball Tournament.  –PHOTO UAAP

Bella Belen and NU Lady Bulldogs in the UAAP Season 85 Women’s Volleyball Tournament. –PHOTO UAAP

NU can’t think of the next round just yet with a game against La Salle – who are set to face another tough side in Adamson (4-1) on Sunday – still looming.

And it’s a match that will bring back a lot of memories.

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

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

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

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

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

“Respect our opponents”

Alyssa Solomon also delivered against the Lady Tamaraws with 14 points, including 10 kills, while Princess Robles had 12 points, her last two straight wins ending FEU’s misery, which ended in a record of 3-4 in the second round.

Laure’s power through blocking Riza Nogales capped a 14-kill performance while rookie Regina Jurado netted 13 points, including 10 kills for the Tigresses, who overcame a languid first set.

“I told my teammates during the huddle that we had to respect our opponents and that we shouldn’t relax. We have to work on maintaining our intensity on the ground,” said Laure, who added six digs and three blocks to her statistical line.

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

The Tigresses were in complete control at the start of the first set, accelerating to 17-9 and thriving on errors from the Lady Warriors.

That’s when they eased off the accelerator pedal and inexplicably allowed UE to wipe out the deficit thanks to the heroics of Janeca Lana, KC Cepada and Vanessa Bangayan.

—With a report by Rommel Fuertes Jr.

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