MANILA, Philippines -- University of the Philippines (UP) arrested a brief but alarming losing streak on Sunday, giving its senior players a measure of relief before they buckle down to work again in the UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball tournament.
The Lady Maroons, one of the favorites to contend for the title this year, lost back-to-back matches to Ateneo de Manila University and National University. Their 3-3 record put them on the outside looking into the Final 4 picture heading into their last game of the first round.
Alarm bells were sounding after the Lady Maroons dropped the first set against the Lady Falcons, as they squandered a late four-point cushion and lost in an extended frame, 27-25. Fortunately for UP, they recovered in the second and third frames, before holding off the Lady Falcons in the fourth to complete a 25-27, 25-14, 25-12, 25-21 triumph.
"I'm so happy kasi after all our struggles the past games, nakapag-laro kami ulit ng maayos," said UP captain Tots Carlos, who led the team with 14 points.
"'Yung finishing namin, hindi pa ganoon kapulido, pero if gusto naman talaga namin, nakukuha naman namin," she added.
Both Carlos and setter Ayel Estrañero acknowledged that their win over Adamson was massive, not just to give them momentum heading into the second round but also to boost their confidence that had been tested by two straight defeats.
"It's really a big thing," said Estrañero of the win. "Especially na more on seniors nga kami sa loob, so much is really expected from us. We can't just say na there's so much pressure -- we really have to push each other to play well."
Carlos also admitted that the skid had taken its toll on them as players, given the roles that they were given on the team.
"Sa part namin ni Ayel, lalo na co-captains kami nila Isa (Molde), mahirap siya for us," she said. "Kasi parang nagkulang kami na i-lead 'yung team. So ayun nga, confidence booster talaga siya."
With their win over Adamson, UP finished the first round with a 4-3 win-loss record -- good enough for a share of fourth place along with Far Eastern University.
They still have an uphill climb in the second round if they hope to live up to preseason projections, but the way they played against the Lady Falcons gives the Lady Maroons reason to hope.
"Today, it was very evident that we played together, and we just really enjoyed the game," Estrañero said.
"Those are really big factors for us to win more games in the second round," she stressed.
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