MANILA, Philippines – National University (NU) is in good position to end a two-year Final 4 drought, as they ended the first round of the UAAP Season 80 women's volleyball tournament at the top of the league standings.
With their 6-1 win-loss record, the Lady Bulldogs needs to win just two more games to be assured of at least a playoff for a Final 4 spot.
But the Lady Bulldogs vowed that they will not rest on their laurels and treat every game in the second round with an even greater sense of urgency.
"'Yung round 2, back to zero naman talaga 'yan," says NU captain Jaja Santiago, who averaged 20.14 points per game in the first round to power the Lady Bulldogs' charge.
"Marami pang magbabago," she predicted. "So siyempre, kailangan i-expect pa rin ng team namin na babawi at mas lalakas pa 'yung mga makakalaban namin, at magbabago sila ng strategy."
The second round has not been kind to NU in the past couple of years. They went 4-3 in the second round of Season 78, with a loss to De La Salle University dashing their hopes of making the playoffs. Last season, they went 3-4, ending their campaign with three consecutive defeats.
This time around, however, Santiago is reasonably confident that there won't be any collapse on NU's part. They already showed on Sunday that they have the mental fortitude to recover from a loss, as they swept University of the Philippines to bounce back from their first setback of the season.
"Siguro merong (pressure)," said Santiago. "Pero ang sa akin kasi, sa nakikita ko sa team namin ngayon, mas malaki 'yung inimprove namin kaysa noong dati."
"'Yung new system ni coach na inimplement sa amin, sobrang nakikita ko na talagang andoon na, nage-engage na talaga 'yung lahat," she added.
"Towards the second round, hindi ko nakikita 'yung team ko na pababa. Mas nakikita ko 'yung team ko na paakyat."
Their resolve and mental toughness will be immediately tested, as NU opens the second round against defending champion La Salle.
The Lady Bulldogs defeated the Lady Spikers in their first round meeting, claiming a tough five-set win that saw them crawl back from an 8-12 deficit in the deciding frame.
"Magandang laban 'yun," Santiago said. "Alam namin na talagang babawi at babawi ang La Salle."
"Pero pagta-trabahuhan namin, pag-iigihan namin. Laban lang ng laban, kahit sinong kalaban, sige fight," she added. "Hindi naman namin kailangang mamili ng kalaban kasi lahat naman sila pagdadaanan namin, so kahit sino 'yung mauna, kailangan 'yung attitude mo, palaban lang at ready."
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