UAAP Volleyball

Hunters turned hunted: NU stars Belen, Nierva embrace title defense challenge

JR Isaga
Hunters turned hunted: NU stars Belen, Nierva embrace title defense challenge

BITE BACK. NU Lady Bulldogs volleyball team at the 2023 UAAP Season 85 women's volleyball press conference

UAAP Season 85 Media Team

UAAP women's volleyball rookie MVP Bella Belen and Season 84 Best Libero Jen Nierva share their mental preparations for the NU Lady Bulldogs' title defense and bigger challenges that lie ahead

MANILA, Philippines – The NU Lady Bulldogs shifted the trajectory of Philippine volleyball’s future after running roughshod of the competition at the UAAP Season 84 women’s volleyball tournament, where they captured their first title in 65 years off a stunning 16-0 season sweep.

Turning from fringe contenders to a budding dynasty in a span of one season, the Lady Bulldogs are now gunning for back-to-back titles with not only a mostly intact core, but also a considerably bigger target on their backs, as expected coming off a title run.

For reigning rookie MVP Bella Belen and veteran libero Jen Nierva, the added challenges of a title defense are all part of their preparations, and they’re ready for whatever comes their way.

“We have not been complacent after last season, because even if we swept the season, we were only thinking how else can we do better,” Belen said in Filipino. “That’s also why we decided to train in Japan to increase our level of play. Every training, we really try to improve.”

“This year won’t be easy,” added Nierva. “We were the ones who wanted to replace the old contenders last season, and now our foes really want to beat us. Now that we’re defending the titles, that’s obvious pressure for us, but at the same time, we love that challenge.”

Under the steady leadership of Nierva, who eventually earned the Season 84 Best Libero honor, NU rose above the rest in a highly competitive field, while Belen quickly came into her own and skyrocketed to be the first volleyball rookie MVP in modern league history.

With a starting six that practically swept all available individual awards at season’s end, only a championship win could have been an acceptable Season 84 ending for the Lady Bulldogs, and that is exactly what they did.

Now, the challenge lies with staying on top with heavier burdens to bear, but NU has already proven to not shrink when it matters most.

“Defending a crown is harder than winning it,” Belen continued. “All the teams want to beat you, so we just have to focus on ourselves. We are our biggest enemies. We just need to give our best every game and stick to the system.”

“We’re no longer thinking about our sweep, Every training, it’s really about beating yourself after you did your best today,” Nierva echoed.

“You just have to improve, improve, and improve.” –

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SCHEDULE: UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball

SCHEDULE: UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball

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