MANILA, Philippines – The NU Lady Bulldogs are entering their UAAP women’s volleyball title defense in Season 85 with a largely intact core that led the mythical Season 84 sweep.
In fact, every single one of NU’s Season 84 individual award winners are back to defend their crowns along with the team’s first championship, including rookie MVP Bella Belen, Finals MVP Cess Robles, and Best Libero Jen Nierva.
Ivy Lacsina, the lone key cog without individual honors in the Lady Bulldogs’ feared starting six, has since found her own personal breakthrough with the PVL’s F2 Cargo Movers. In her stead now stands little-known Erin Pangilinan, a 5-foot-8 middle blocker who came off the bench in NU’s Season 84 run.
Thrust alongside the Lady Bulldogs’ decorated starters to kick off Season 85, the 20-year-old prospect is taking the weight of everyone’s expectations – including her own – in stride.
“At first, it’s a bit challenging because Ate Ivy is different,” she said in Filipino after a 7-point outing in her first start. “I’ll take it as a challenge because I’m also different from Ate Ivy. I’ll show something different to my teammates and our foes.”
With Pangilinan taking Lacsina’s spot, NU still ran circles around the Ateneo Blue Eagles on the way to a 25-15, 25-20, 25-16 statement sweep.
The former NU high school standout, who is also a batchmate of Belen and Best Opposite Spiker Alyssa Solomon, looked right at home in the starting lineup, and whatever jitters she had at least did not manifest on the court.
“At first, I was a bit nervous because I didn’t know how I’d perform with the team and I know that they expect something out of me. But due to Shakey’s (preseason league) and our training, we have been jelling. I didn’t struggle that much,” she continued.
“I was satisfied, but at the same time, I don’t want to be complacent. I’m willing to improve further.”
Pangilinan will have plenty of chances to quickly move herself away from Lacsina’s shadow as NU next takes on another contender in the Adamson Lady Falcons on Wednesday, March 1, 10 am, at the Mall of Asia Arena. – Rappler.com
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