MANILA, Philippines – Coach Kungfu Reyes knows he has some difficult choices to make regarding the composition of University of Santo Tomas' (UST) line-up for the upcoming UAAP women's volleyball wars.
The Golden Tigresses had a promising build-up to Season 81, capped by a second-place finish in the Philippine Superliga Collegiate Grand Slam last December where they bowed to University of the Philippines in the final.
Playing without star seniors EJ Laure and Sisi Rondina, the Tigresses dropped a four-setter to UP, 21-25, 25-16, 23-25, 19-25. Yet even in defeat, UST's potential was obvious: they got a combined 27 points from Eya Laure and Milena Alessandrini, while veterans like Tin Francisco and Dimdim Pacres held their own.
"We are still in the process," Reyes said after the loss. "We had 10 rookies and four veterans, hindi na masama. Nag-champion kami sa Uni Game with a different set of players."
"What's important is nakita namin 'yung strength and weaknesses ng team namin," he added.
Given what he's seen from the team in the preseason, Reyes is bracing for some tough cuts to their line-up.
"'Yung collaboration pa rin ng mga coaches sa kung ano 'yung strength, 'yung weaknesses nung mga bata sa certain position, kasi 'yun ang hinahabol namin na mag-fit doon sa 14," he said when asked of his criteria for his UAAP line-up.
While the UST line-up is far from finalized, players such as Rondina and Alessandrini, the reigning UAAP Rookie of the Year, are virtually assured of spots. Eya Laure, their top recruit, should also be a shoo-in for a place in the roster.
"Kung sino mas deserve, 'yun ang ilalagay namin (sa line-up)," Reyes stressed.
This philosophy applies even to EJ Laure, Eya's older sister and a former UAAP Rookie of the Year who missed all of Season 80 due to a shoulder injury.
"Si EJ, visible naman. 'Yung pagbalik niya sa Christmas vacation ang crucial," said Reyes. "Makikita namin siya ulit in action, and doon talaga makikita kung aabot siya sa cut."
The Tigresses returned to practice on December 27.
Regardless of who makes their final line-up eventually, Reyes said what's certain is that the Tigresses still have a lot of work to do before the UAAP season.
"Lahat ng team, lumakas," he pointed out. "Kailangan namin mag-trabaho pa."
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