MANILA, Philippines – University of the Philippines (UP) came very close to disaster in their very first game of UAAP Season 80, as the Lady Maroons nearly squandered a two-set advantage against University of the East (UE) last Sunday.
Fortunately for UP, they were able to hack out a 25-19, 25-13, 21-25. 16-25, 15-8 victory to give new head coach Godfrey Okumu a triumphant welcome to the UAAP.
"We put them under pressure in the first two sets, and then we relaxed. We thought that we had won the game," said Okumu, a Kenyan coach who previously worked with UP in their build-up to Season 79, before taking over the post vacated by Jerry Yee late last year.
"You saw in the fifth set, we started fighting back, our defense came back – our normal defense," he added.
Okumu saw plenty of areas for improvement. Not only did UP come close to losing to a team that has won a combined two games in two seasons, but they did so in very disappointing fashion. The Lady Maroons committed a whopping 46 unforced errors in the match, which accounted for more than half of the 90 total points that UE scored.
They also gave up 12 aces to UE, and had no answer for Shaya Adorador's serve in the fourth set where they completely collapsed.
Okumu pointed out that their passing very clearly could use more work.
"We didn't pass well," he said. "I kept on insisting on passing, that's my philosophy. In volleyball, if you don't pass, it's hard, it's very hard. So we have to work on our passing."
"Also, defense," he added. "If you pass well, you execute. If you defend well, you score points."
Nevertheless, he was proud of his team for regaining their bearings in the final set, where they finally pulled away from the Lady Warriors.
"You expect to win 3-0, but we won 3-2. It's still a good win," said Okumu. "It's a good start for my team, and I'm very happy."
"I'm proud of the way my team played tonight," he added.
Okumu's expectation is that UP will improve as the season progresses, not just in their passing but in all other aspects of the game.
"If you can see what we are doing, we are trying to work on our receiving system, who stays where. We're still working on it. It will take time," he said. "The team is still in the building stages."
UP will get a tough challenge in their next game, as they battle defending champion De La Salle University on Saturday.
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