UAAP Volleyball

Complete trust: Tina Salak hands FEU keys to rookies in stunner over Ateneo

JR Isaga

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Complete trust: Tina Salak hands FEU keys to rookies in stunner over Ateneo

LEAD THE WAY. FEU rookies Marga Encarnacion (#17), Mitzi Panangin (#8), and Alyzza Devosora at the UAAP Season 85 women's volleyball tournament

UAAP Season 85 Media Team

FEU head coach Tina Salak lets her rookie core cook in the Lady Tamaraws' five-set upset of Ateneo, and the likes of Marga Encarnacion, Alyzza Devosora, and Mitzi Panangin respond with scorching games

MANILA, Philippines – All coaches in different sports have different styles, and as long as the wins come, no one can question the methods used in getting them.

That is exactly what Tina Salak and the FEU Lady Tamaraws pulled off after completing a five-set stunner over the reeling Ateneo Blue Eagles last Wednesday, March 8 – their first win over the storied program in four years.

Apart from somewhat familiar names like Jov Fernandez and Chen Tagaod, Salak thrust a rookie core of libero Marga Encarnacion, middle blocker Mitzi Panangin, and spiker Alyzza Devosora to the spotlight.

To the FEU legend’s delight, the young Lady Tamaraws shone bright amid intense pressure, going toe-to-toe with Ateneo’s more experienced group led by Faith Nisperos and pulling off the heist in extended time.

Asked why Salak stuck to her young guns in a must-win situation, the fiery mentor simply said, “They’re the ones there. Their presence got them there, so they’re my priority.

“I’m not saying the seniors disappeared, but we needed that sense of urgency. The rookies are ready and I’m thankful that they fulfilled their roles even though they’re freshmen.”

Encarnacion, who has yet to turn 19, made a huge difference on floor defense and anchored FEU in the clutch with 35 excellent digs and 12 excellent receptions, while Devosora and Panangin added 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Of course, the group is nothing but thankful for their mentors.

“I’m really happy because our coaches’ trust with us is huge. All our coaches and Coach T,” Encarnacion said in Filipino. “I didn’t expect I’d be able to do my very best. If not for the team, I couldn’t have done this. Thanks to coach and my teammates, this is who I am today.”

“I’m thankful for the coaches because they’re not giving up easily on us,” Panangin chimed in. “They’re always there to guide us and help us learn from our mistakes, so I just did my best to help the team.”

Upperclassmen in any sport are already expected to be confident at a moment’s notice, so it is absolutely crucial for any team’s rookies to have their fires lit early and carefully in their budding careers.

With too much neglect, the fire dies. With too much prodding, the fire burns out fast.

Player development in volleyball is no different, and Tina Salak of all people knows exactly what she is doing. –

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