He wasn’t technically the head coach, but top assistant Edjet Mabbayad practically steered NU to its second straight V-League championship with his calm demeanor and hard work in training.
With coach Roger Gorayeb in the United States, the young mentor took the reins for the Lady Bulldogs, providing guidance and making tactical adjustments as the team lost only one game throughout the 13th Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference.
Through it all, however, Mabbayad refuses to take credit.
“Masaya pero hindi naman sa akin yun ksai with guidance naman ni coach Roger yun,” he said. “Pinagtulungan naman namin yun. Kami lang yung nag-implement.”
Gorayeb, who was present during Game 2 of the Finals Wednesday night at the Philsports Arena, is just thankful to have someone like Mabbayad by his side.
“Mula umpisa, nandyan na si Edjet. Ibibigay ko sa kanya yan,” he said of his assistant. “Ayos naman naipanalo niya. Maganda para kay Edjet yan.”
True enough, it was an uphill climb for Mabbayad and crew, as they had to make do with only 11 players on their roster after an exodus early in the offseason.
That was aggravated by the fact that superstar Jaja Santiago had to work double time since she also suited up for Foton in the PSL All-Filipino Conference and then Foton Pilipinas in the recently-concluded Asian Women’s Club Championship.
But Mabbayad and his wards soldiered on, taking a loss to the Lady Eagles in the elimination round as a rallying point in the quarterfinals, the semifinals and then the finals.
“Nakita namin na natuto yung mga bata,” he said of that stunner. “Nakita nila yung pagkakamali nila and ginawa namin itong finals, nakabawi kami.”
“Ang importante naman is alam namin yung skills ng bawat isa. Kilala namin mga players namin. Yung trust namin sa isa’t-isa, yun ang importante,” he added.
With the V-League title in the bag, Mabbayad believes there’s no reason to stop. After all, they have learned their lessons from last year, when they won the Collegiate Conference only to bomb out of the race to the UAAP Final Four.
They will celebrate now, the coach said, but hard work resumes in the next few days.
“Sa ngayon, natutuwa kami sa result,” he said. “Pero kita naman natin na marami pa kaming ii-improve. Basta ganyan yung attitude nila during the game and open sila lagi sa learning, malayo ang mararating ng team na ito.” — By John Chester Fajardo