UAAP Volleyball

Motivated NU puts nightmarish start behind

Philip Matel

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Motivated NU puts nightmarish start behind

LAST LAUGH. The NU Lady Bulldogs react in the UAAP Season 86 women's volleyball tournament

UAAP Season 86 Media Team

Powerhouse NU rises from a horrible start to the UAAP volleyball season, quickly learning from shock opening-day losses in both the men’s and women’s divisions

MANILA, Philippines — Following a nightmarish start to the UAAP Season 86 volleyball tournament, National University picked up much-needed rebound wins in both the men’s and women’s divisions on Saturday, February 24, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

While the defending champion NU Bulldogs made quick work of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in straight sets, 25-23, 26-24, 25-19, in men’s action, the Lady Bulldogs needed all five sets to down their Ateneo foes, 25-17, 24-26, 26-28, 25-19, 15-7, in the women’s nightcap.

“One of our biggest motivations was our loss to UST,” said NU star Bella Belen as the perennial finalists recovered from a shock straight-set loss to the Tigresses, 25-23, 26-24, 25-19, in last week’s opener. 

“We’re going through a tough time, but I’m really happy because everyone was fielded. We saw out potential, especially the new ones, and saw what we can still apply in our next game.”

Belen, the UAAP rookie MVP two seasons ago, delivered excellent all-around numbers of 21 points, 24 excellent digs, and 10 excellent receptions.

And the Lady Bulldogs, last year’s runners-up, needed all of those numbers after lagging two sets to one off a pedestrian showing in the third, where NU committed 10 errors to fall in the extended set, 28-26.

“Maybe from this, we need to look at where we need to improve, what our lapses were, and return to training,” said Belen. 

The Lady Bulldogs took control of the fourth set to force the deciding fifth, where Belen showcased her wares and took over, scoring four in the one-sided frame.

NU’s Minierva Maaya struck the dagger when she denied a Lyann de Guzman attack at the net for the final tally.

Returning NU head coach Norman Miguel thinks fatigue may have been a factor as the Lady Bulldogs just came from a busy stretch – a title romp in the UniGames in Dipolog and practice games with top club teams on top of their regular training. 

“I think this is unpopular to everybody, but for me, I think we’re just starting to recover from [our hectic schedule],” said Miguel.

In the men’s side, the Bulldogs knew they needed to shake off the complacency they showed in their first game – a 25-23, 26-24, 25-19 defeat to UST in a finals rematch last February 18.

Nico Almendras unleashed 18 points in NU’s quick win against Ateneo, as they look to start a new winning streak.

“We told ourselves not to lose again since we’re the defending champions,” noted Almendras.

“As coach (Dante Alinsunurin) said, we cannot let our opponents catch up, we should remain No. 1.” 

Prior to the defeat to the UST Golden Spikers, the Bulldogs rode on a 34-game win streak, and in between those victories were two straight championships.

In the third and final set, the trio of Almendras, Leo Aringo, and rookie Jade Disquitado joined hands to pull away against Ateneo.

Disquitado scored 17 points on 15 attacks and 2 rejections to help NU improve to an even 1-1 record.

“Of course, it’s true, we had a hard time playing since we were expected to play perfectly,” said Alinsunrin.

“We just reminded ourselves that we have another goal, which is to achieve the four-peat.” —

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