UAAP Volleyball

Rebuilding Katipunan: Ateneo’s Veloso, UP’s Almadro set modest goals in team debuts

JR Isaga

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Rebuilding Katipunan: Ateneo’s Veloso, UP’s Almadro set modest goals in team debuts

TALL TASK AHEAD. Ateneo women's volleyball head coach Sergio Veloso and UP women's volleyball head coach Oliver Almadro in the UAAP Season 86 volleyball press conference

UAAP Season 86 Media Team

UAAP women's volleyball underdogs Ateneo and UP lay out rebuilding blueprints in Season 86 under their respective new head coaches, Philippine men's team mentor Sergio Veloso and ex-Blue Eagles champion Oliver Almadro

MANILA, Philippines – In recent years, Katipunan neighbors Ateneo and UP have been the UAAP’s top drawing attractions, with their growing rivalry in men’s basketball resulting in championships for either side.

Basketball season has come and gone, however, and the landscape is just not quite the same as the hardwood is plastered over by the volleyball taraflex.

Such is the tempered reality faced by the Blue Eagles and Fighting Maroons women’s volleyball teams as Season 86 kicks off this Saturday, February 17, and their new head coaches understand their current situations all too well.

“Our first target, we need to play better or best, no matter if you win or not. Our mentality now in Ateneo is every match, you can win or the opponents win. But every time, you can learn,” said Ateneo’s Sergio Veloso, a UAAP first-timer and also the current Philippine men’s volleyball head coach.

“When you play good and you lose, it’s not that you played good, it’s just the opponent played better. That’s our philosophy, try to do your best every time.”

On the other side of Katipunan, meanwhile, multi-time UAAP champion coach Oliver Almadro embraces a similar mindset as he settles into his new home after more than a decade of handling the Blue Eagles men’s and women’s teams.

“It’s a challenge, big challenge,” he said. “We all know in the past few years where the UP men’s and women’s teams were in the standings, and I’ve been asked to start a new program.”

“I cannot say that I can change it right away in terms of skills, in terms of winning, but what I can assure to everybody, to the volleyball program, is we have to change the culture. That’s why we call on all UP volleyball supporters to help bring back that fighting culture, that winning culture.”

Following a dismal Season 85 campaign that produced a last-place 1-13 record, the Fighting Maroons head to the new season still armed with promising prospects like blocker Nica Celis, her frontline partner and Second Best Middle Blocker Nina Ytang, and feisty wingers Abi Goc and Jewel Encarnacion.

The Blue Eagles, meanwhile, are in the midst of a regroup following a 10-year-worst 4-10 record and the subsequent departures of top weapons Faith Nisperos, Vanie Gandler, and Joan Narit.

Holdovers like blocker AC Miner, opposite Lyann de Guzman, setter Taks Fujimoto, and libero captain Roma Mae Doromal are expected to shoulder the heavy burdens under Veloso’s new system, as Ateneo attempts to make a gradual turnaround back to contention.

“It’s going to be exciting for my first season in the UAAP. I know this tournament is strong. I saw the [La Salle-NU] finals last season and it’s amazing. The gym was full. It’s very good,” Veloso continued.

“We participated in a few preseason tournaments and I can see how the Ateneo players improved. We introduced new system and some skills. Now, it’s time to show that. We prepared and it’s time to play.”

Ateneo kicks off the women’s tournament on Saturday, 2 pm, against fellow rebuilding squad UE at the Mall of Asia Arena, while UP holds serve at the same venue on Sunday, February 18, 2 pm, against early Final Four dark horse FEU. –

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