MANILA, Philippines – National University (NU) made a statement in the UAAP Season 80 women's volleyball tournament on Sunday, when they dismissed University of the Philippines (UP) in straight sets to end the first round.
The Lady Bulldogs swept the Lady Maroons, 25-23, 25-23, 25-17, to improve their record to 6-1.
The win was significant in many ways for NU. It was a bounce-back performance for the Lady Bulldogs, as they were coming off their first loss of the season – a four-set defeat at the hands of Far Eastern University. It also ensured that they ended the first round at the top of the league standings.
In previous seasons, a loss such as the one they suffered against the Lady Tamaraws would have been a death knell for NU, which had a tendency to start their campaigns on a strong note, only to fall apart after a bad loss and wind up missing the post-season.
But NU coach Babes Castillo – who took over for Roger Gorayeb at the end of Season 79 – was delighted with how the Lady Bulldogs responded to their first loss and believes it bodes well for the remainder of their campaign.
"To begin with, after we lost, move on right away ang aming attitude. And the way we approached this game sa UP, before we even started our training, it has to be a statement game," said Castillo.
"I'm very happy with how the team is responding sa kanilang mga experience," he added.
Jaja Santiago led the way for the Lady Bulldogs, as she fired 17 points including 16 kills. The towering middle blocker was also instrumental in keeping her teammates focused on the task at hand, instead of dwelling on their loss to the Lady Tamaraws.
"Sinabi ko lang sa teammates ko, 'yung pagkatalo natin, hindi 'yun ang magsasabi sa atin kung ano tayo," she revealed.
"'Yung pagkatalo nating 'yun, 'yun ang nagsasabi kung paano tayo babawi sa pagkatalo na 'yun," she added.
Given their lofty standing at the end of the first round, NU is now in a strong position to make it to the Final 4 for the first time since Season 77.
The Lady Bulldogs vow that there will be no let-up from their part in the second set, as they clearly don't want to experience the same collapse that had doomed their campaigns in the past two seasons.
"Today, we'll celebrate kasi first time na nag-rank No. 1 tayo," said Castillo. "But hindi pa kami happy. Hindi pa kami ganoon ka-happy with the way we played."
"Marami pang pwede tayong ma-produce, magawa."
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