Photo by Kezhia Maglasang
Text by Denver Del Rosario
The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Lady Maroons ended the first round on a bad note as they crumbled against the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs in three sets, 23-25, 23-25, 17-25, today at the Filoil Flying V Arena.
Despite keeping it close in the first two sets, UP lost rhythm in the final frame as NU played confidently like the top-seed team that they are.
Graduating Jaja Santiago spearheaded the fight for the Lady Bulldogs with 17 points, followed by Risa Sato with 10.
Meanwhile, batchmates Tots Carlos and Isa Molde provided the one-two punch for State U with 15 and 11 points, respectively.
Contested Opening Set
Both teams played step in step at the start of the first set, refusing the other to pull away easily.
A block by Santiago tied the game for the seventh time, 16-all. At that point, the Lady Bulldogs started to pull away as errors plagued the Diliman squad once again.
Doria gave NU set point with an off-the-block attack, 20-24, but UP managed to score three consecutive points. However, the Lady Maroons committed a net infraction, giving away the set to the Lady Bulldogs.
Tight Second Set
NU kept in pace in the following set, taking the driver’s seat early, 4-8. The Lady Bulldogs maintained a comfortable lead going into the second technical timeout.
However, UP rallied to tie the set, 17-all, for the first time since the 3-point mark. A barrage of attacks by Carlos gave UP the lead, 21-20.
NU refused to surrender as Santiago took charge, scoring two attacks to give her team the set point, 22-24.
Molde tried to do last-minute heroics as she registered an attack, but a service error by Marist Layug sealed the set for the Lady Bulldogs, 23-25.
Meltdown Final Set
UP eventually lost steam in the third set as they failed to keep up with the Lady Bulldogs’ attacks and blocks. The lead went as large as seven points at the 14-21 mark, in favor of NU.
Another UP error gave the Lady Bulldogs match point, taken care of by Santiago with a quick attack, 17-25.
Lack of Drive
With the loss, UP remains at the bottom of the heap as the first round ends, taking sixth place with a 2-5 slate.
UP head coach Godfrey Okumu attributed this record to the team’s mental shortcomings.
“The problem is not skills–it’s that sometimes the players are not hungry enough to win,” he said. “They play better, but they play confused again.”
Okumu assessed his team’s first round performance as “inconsistent”, something he said the team needs to work going into the second round.
“We play good volleyball and then bad again,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how well you play if you don’t win–we just have to work on finishing the game.”
Finishing in the lower half of the standings, Okumu said his team needs to win at least five games in the second round for a Final Four chance.
“This is a very interesting season. Don’t count us out yet,” he said.