MANILA, Philippines – University of the Philippines (UP) is expected to be without ace hitter Isa Molde when they take on University of the East (UE) in the second round of the UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball tournament on Wednesday.
Molde, the Rookie of the Year in Season 78, was spared of serious injuries after a bad fall in their game against Ateneo de Manila University last Saturday. The open hitter was stretchered out of the court, but fortunately, team doctors ruled out fractures to her knee and ankle after the game.
However, Molde is still likely to sit out their game against the Lady Warriors to give her time to recover. Expected to take her place in the starting line-up is veteran spiker Marian Buitre.
"Andito naman ako, if whenever they need me," said Buitre, who stepped up in their three-set loss to Ateneo after Molde's injury and finished with six points in two sets of action.
"Hindi naman ako nawawala," she added. "So if there's one man down, I can fill in for her shoes any time."
UP coach Godfrey Okumu has high expectations of Buitre, who is one of UP's strongest spikers, but unfortunately plays the same position as skipper Tots Carlos.
"They're both strong players," Okumu said of Carlos and Buitre. "Carlos is the captain, and Isa is the assistant captain."
"Now that Isa is out, then we have to introduce Buitre. I believe she will do wonders," he said. "She's capable of doing wonders, she will give us a lot of strength that we've been waiting for."
The pressure from her coach does not faze Buitre, who pointed out that while she may not be playing long minutes this year, it's not as though she is coming in as a rookie.
"This is my final year in the UAAP," she said. "Hindi ko na pwede gawing rason 'yung pressure."
"Ako, every laro naman, I think of it as a championship match," Buitre added. "So I guess, whether it's Ateneo or not Ateneo, whether I'm starting or I'm not starting, isa lang ang mindset ko: it's a championship game."
The Lady Maroons will try to recover from a 25-23, 25-16, 25-23 loss to Ateneo, and earn a share of fourth place in the league standings.
UP needed five sets to beat UE in round 1, 25-12, 22-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-12.
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