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MANILA, Philippines – The UST Golden Tigresses struck fear in the hearts of all teams, contenders or otherwise, in the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball tournament.
Bannered by superstar spiker Eya Laure and fellow veterans Imee Hernandez and Milena Alessandrini, the España-based hitters busted lengthy winning streaks by both eventual champion La Salle and runner-up NU before booking the last Final Four ticket with a 10-4 record.
The Tigresses, however, ran out of their giant-slaying magic in the semifinals, as they bowed to top-seeded La Salle, marking the end of their star trio’s collegiate careers.
Now with UST’s Season 86 campaign kicking off on Sunday, February 18, its holdovers are more than ready to keep their contending fire alive and possibly book a return trip to the Final Four.
“We’re kind of a rebuilding team with a lot of young players, and it’s going to be difficult since Ate Eya and the other seniors were huge losses for us,” bared captain Detdet Pepito, the reigning UAAP Best Libero.
“But we saw in our previous league, the Shakey’s V-League, we were okay. We went there without expectations and we performed well without pressure. We saw that we can compete even without Ate Eya.”
Apart from Pepito, UST will lean on a plethora of rising prospects to carry bigger burdens, like Season 85 revelation Reg Jurado, young setter Cassie Carballo, and wingers Jonna Perdido, Xyza Gula, and Angeline Poyos.
Making Ate Eya proud
Watching from afar in the PVL, Chery Tiggo’s Laure couldn’t be prouder that the young Tigresses continue to bring the same ferocity that she gave UST for the last 12 years.
“I’ve seen their progress, and those who are stepping up for the team, since I saw their games in the offseason,” Laure said during the PVL Media Day last Sunday, February 11.
“Of course, I’m very proud and confident of the UST [team], knowing they will fight for UST the way we fought for it before. They’ll fight for this. They may be little, but they have a big heart.”
When asked about who could step up for the team, Laure was particularly impressed by the Tigresses’ middle blockers like Pia Abbu and Janna Torres, after playing against them in a tune-up game last January at the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion.
“The MBs (middle blockers) of UST now, I really saw their improvement from last year to this year,” Laure said.
However, the 24-year-old former UST captain thinks striking a balance across all positions is what the team needs for the upcoming season.
“Being strong in some positions would not suffice. It really needs to be a team effort to win,” Laure said.
UST will figure in an uphill climb back to prominence in Season 86, as the likes of La Salle, NU, Adamson, and FEU all have strong cases as early contenders. – Rappler.com