BAGUIO CITY — Down by a mile against UE at the 6-12 juncture of the 5th set, making it to the 2016 Intercollegiate women’s volleyball tournament finals already seemed like a lost cause for UP.
But by sheer determination, non-stop hustle, and perhaps some stroke of luck, the Lady Maroons forced the odds to tip in their favor, completing a come-from-behind victory, 19-25, 25-23, 25-21, 23-25, 17-15, Saturday at the University of Cordilleras gym here.
After barely seeing action in the early goings of the match, veteran Caca Sandoval caught fire and score 3 of the 6 straight points that tied UP with UE at 12-all.
Sandoval and UE team captain Shaya Adorador continued to put on a spiking show but the rest of the Lady Warriors failed to back up their leaders as Jessma Ramos eventually ended the match with an anticlimactic service ace which signaled the Diliman crew’s entry to the last round.
“Happy kami kasi ‘yung (tinalo namin) buong UE ‘yun. Kahit mga bata (pa ang players namin), na-prove nila na walang bagu-bago, walang bata-bata na kahit sinong kaharap nila, UAAP man ‘yan o hindi, kakayanin nila,” said UP assistant coach Kate de Lara who was pinch-hitting for Jerry Yee as he is focused with his Team A competing in the ongoing 13th Shakey’s V-League Open Conference.
While the group that downed the Recto squad is considered as UP’s second unit, it still had 3 girls from the Season 78 lineup in Ramos, Sheena Chopitea and Mae Basarte.
Asked if the trio’s inclusion in the smaller league is considered a demotion, De Lara explained it is more of a chance to give the incoming sophomores more exposure during the off-season.
“Actually, hindi naman sila wala na sa team A. Wala lang sila ngayon na nagte-training sa baba,” the mentor shared. “Ngayon, para sa kanilang tatlo exposure na nila ito. Dito sila ang nagli-lead, sila ang nagdadala so ‘yun ‘yung time nila para mag shine dito.”
Aside from making it back to the finals after winning the crown back in 2014, the win is a testament to Jerry Yee’s volleyball program as his UP defeated UE, who is boasting of an intact core, despite not having big names like Kathy Bersola, Nicole Tiamzon, Isa Molde and Tots Carlos among others in the roster.
For De Lara, the biggest surprise so far is wing spiker April Romero, who, before the competition, was completely under the radar for UP.
“Biggest surprise ngayon si April Romero. Hindi niyo siya nakikita, hindi niyo siya kilala pero all throughout the competition, nag-deliver siya,” she shared.
Having already overachieved by going all the way to the finale, the title would be the cherry on top of the icing for the Lady Maroons should they deliver another heartbreak on Sunday this time against NCAA powerhouse Arellano University.
“Well, sa akin, one at a time, Huwag nilang mamadaliin,” said de Lara on her game plan. “Since bata kasi sila, pag nalalamangan sila, medyo bumabagal. So ako nagpapaka-cheering squad na lang ako para ma-boost ‘yung morale nila kahit papaano. Maganda naman ang naging resulta.”
On their chances against the gritty Lady Chiefs, the assistant coach confidently closed by saying, “Kaya namin. Naman.” — By Mac Dionisio