Young setter Maji Mangulabnan to offer fans glimpse into UST’s future

A taste of what’s in store for UST women’s volleyball team’s future.

This was how UST head coach Kung Fu Reyes described their 13th Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference campaign where he will be fielding in some of his Team B players and 2 of his high school stars Eya Laure and Maji Mangulabanan.

But as it turns out, Mangulabnan, a setter, was a late addition to the 18-woman pool of the Tigresses.

“Na-surprise ako tapos medyo kinabahan din kasi ang expected ko talaga na lalaro is si Imee (Hernandez),” she told FOX Sports. “Nung nalaman po na injured siya, hindi ko pa rin po inisip na ako. Pero naging challenge po sa akin na mag hard work at double time pa po nung sinabing ako ang kukunin.”

Though Reyes keeps his stand that he and his coaching staff will be needing more time to turn UST’s collegiate squad into contenders after missing the Final Four in the last 4 years, he hopes Laure and Mangulabnan would inspire their seniors with the grit and passion they’ve been showing in the juniors ranks.

“Sabi po ni coach umaasa siya na makapagdala kami ni Eya (Laure) ng inspiration sa team. Kahit naman po seniors sila, may respeto naman po sila sa amin ni Eya the same way na may respeto din po kami sa kanila,” said the 5-foot-6 playmaker.

If one would look at the bigger picture, the move to get the high school duo playing with their seniors will, perhaps, be serving dual purposes: first, to get them enough experience for the forthcoming UAAP season and second, to make them feel at home with the Tigresses which could eventually lead them to staying at España instead of bringing their talents elsewhere.

For Mangulabnan, however, the latter does not seem an issue at all as she is sold to the idea of continuing her studies in UST.

“Ngayon po, sure naman po ako na UST ako. Factor na din siguro na nandito ‘yung gusto kong course which is speech pathology po. Malapit po kasi talaga puso ko sa mga special child,” she said in her usual calm demeanor.

“’Yung passion ko din po kasi nasa UST na. Dream school ko na kasi ito since high school. Bakit pa po ako lalabas kung may opportunity naman po ako dito na maganda rin?” she added matter-of-factly.

It will be a daunting task for the young guns to provide a lift to UST’s offense considering the coaching staff’s decision to have veterans Ria Meneses, Chloe Cortez, Alex Cabaños and Rica Rivera sit out the entire tournament and just focus on their respective PSL stints.

But if you’ve been following Mangulabnan and Laure in their battles against some of the best high school squads in the country, you’d know they are not the kind to back down from challenges.

“Kami pong dalawa ni Eya, nag-usap kami na hindi po namin hahayaan na dalhin nila kami. As much as possible, madala po namin sila ang maangat namin sila lalo na po sa nangyayari sa team ngayon,” said Mangulabnan. “Sabi nga po ni coach may mga kulang po so nandito kaming dalawa para tumulong po sa team.”

“Medyo mahirap po pero it’s a good challenge sa amin ni Eya lalo na sa leadership. After po ng V-League, umaasa po kami na madala po namin ‘yung natutunan namin sa upcoming UAAP season namin,” added the sister of NU setter Vince Mangulabnan.

Asked what her dream is for the embattled squad, the former La Salle-Lipa standout said that the real goal is to one day make UST the champion team it used to be.

“Ang dream ko po is makatulong as much as possible. Alam ko naman po kaya mag champion ng team unti-unti lang. That’s the dream. Maibalik po sa España ‘yung korona na meron dati,” she closed. — By Mac Dionisio