New-look UP drops UAAP volley opener vs FEU

The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons flunked their first-day assignment in the UAAP Season 86 Collegiate Volleyball Tournament as they failed to win a single set against the Far Eastern University (FEU) on Feb. 18 at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena.

Tough start

The UP Men’s Volleyball Team (UP MVT) kicked off their season campaign with a straight-sets loss against the FEU Tamaraws, 23-25, 17-25, 15-25.

Returning head coach Sergio “Vip” Isada received a harsh welcome from the hard-hitting Tamaraws, who only took an hour and 17 minutes to wrap up their affair. 

After a tight opening set, the Fighting Maroons were buried early in the second frame at 13-2. 

UP staged a mini-run to cut the lead to 6, but FEU’s Ariel Cacao continued to activate his team’s offense to squash all hopes of a comeback.

Dealing with reception woes, the maroon shirts tried to keep up in the third set, trailing the opponents by only 4 at 17-13.  

UP MVT Head Coach Vip Isada gives reminders to one of his players. Isada, a two-time UAAP volleyball champion, first helmed the squad in 2003. Photo by Andrei Villamiel

But FEU rode on their momentum from the first two frames and never looked back, bringing in bench spark plug JJ Javelona to put up the finishing touches. 

Zhydryx Saavedra delivered a game-high 16 points for the Tamaraws, who converted 45 spikes from 101 attempts for a 44.6% success rate. UP had two more attempts but only managed to land 26 hits. 

No Fighting Maroon breached double-digit scoring as Louis Gamban paced their lackluster offense with 7 points, all on attacks. 

Meanwhile, sophomore hitters Angelo Lagando and Jessie Rubin added 5 markers apiece.

Early bleeding

Similarly, the rebuilt UP Women’s Volleyball Team (WVT) suffered their first sting after a sweep from the FEU Lady Tamaraws, 23-25, 21-25, 18-25.

Newly assigned program director and head coach Oliver “Coach O” Almadro accepted such early bleeding as UP seeks to improve from a dry spell last season. 

A signature quick hit from last season’s second-best middle blocker Niña Ytang was UP’s first scoreboard entry and delayed response to FEU’s early 5-0 shocker.

FEU’s Christine Ubaldo-Mitzi Panangin connection upped their lead to 16-10 but was immediately countered with a 4-0 State U run, featuring Ytang’s tip to the open.

Jewel Encarnacion’s off-the-block middle leveled the count to 23, but it was UP’s last conversion as Gerzel Petallo’s cross-court and line-hitting drop gifted FEU the first set.

Meanwhile, a scoring margin favoring the Lady Tamaraws persisted in the early second chapter with Jean Asis’ quick to the middle flexing the gap to 14-9.

The Morayta squad proved to be a force to reckon with as they pinned UP to 16, after sparking a 6-0 insurgence and finishing the set with a Chenie Tagaod hit, 25-21.

Roughly the same script was echoed in the third, with FEU leading as much as 8, 20-12, when Ubaldo’s drop was unreceived by UP. 

State U leveraged Encarnacion’s open hit and Stephanie Bustrillo’s blocking powers to catch up, 22-16, with the former even pulling an ace to cruise closer, 23-18.

However, errors riddled their set-extension prayers as Encarnacion’s service and Ytang’s attack went short, 25-18, affording the green-and-gold their season-opener win. 

Ytang delivered 14 huge points to lead UP’s attacking and blocking segments, while Encarnacion paced with 11 from 8 attacks.

Conversely, FEU banked on Petallo’s 16-point explosion and Tagaod’s 12 who both trailblazed their attacking department.

The Fighting Maroons will return to the MOA Arena to search for their first win on Saturday, Feb. 24, against Adamson University at 10 a.m. for the men’s team and 2 p.m. for the women’s.