MANILA, Philippines—UAAP Season 81 is already one for the books for University of the East, as the Lady Warriors have secured their most successful season in seven years.
A straight sets triumph over Adamson University last Saturday gave the Lady Warriors their third win over the women's volleyball tournament, their most since Season 74 when UE finished with a 4-10 win-loss record.
"Personally, very desperate ako na mai-angat talaga ang standing ng UE," said setter Lai Bendong, who had 24 excellent sets in their 25-14, 25-19, 25-22 triumph over the Lady Falcons.
Added skipper Roselle Baliton: "Five years na kaming naglalaro sa UAAP, and kung titignan namin yung record sa mga past seasons namin, talagang nakakalungkot. Sa amin naman, ayaw na namin na hanggang doon lang kami."
Their win over the Lady Falcons ensured that for the first time in a long while, the Lady Warriors won't end up as the No. 8 team at the end of the season. This is exactly what Bendong, Baliton, and libero Kath Arado had set out to accomplish ahead of their final playing year with UE.
"Tinapos na namin yung sumpa ng UE na nasa baba lagi, so sobrang saya," said Arado, who was superb once more with 33 digs in the win.
There are still two games left in UE's elimination round schedule, but the Lady Warriors are aware that they will be hard-pressed to add to their win total. After all, their final two matches are against defending champion La Salle, and league-leading Ateneo.
Though already assured of a Final 4 spot, the Lady Spikers are approaching every game as a must-win, so as to assure themselves of a twice-to-beat privilege. The Lady Eagles, for their part, are gunning for the No. 1 seed.
Knowing what they are up against, the Lady Warriors vow to give all they have, especially the veterans who are entering the closing stretch of their UAAP careers.
"Ila-labas lang naming 'yung ginagawa sa training," said Baliton. "Kasi sa training, kaya naman, and si coach andyan naman siya lagi na nagga-guide sa amin. Kung anong tinuro nila coach, yun ang ibibigay namin sa game."
Bendong, for her part, said: "Top teams man or nasa baba, i-all out mo na."
"Kasi sa amin, hindi na namin maibabalik yun next year. Kumbaga yun na ang pinaka-last. So all out, kung ano man ang resulta, yun na," she pointed out.
Arado acknowledged that they are massive underdogs heading into their matches against Ateneo and La Salle. "Siyempre, lahat naman ng tao, mga fans, hindi talaga i-expect na mananalo kami kasi UE," she said.
However, she promised that they will at least give a good account of themselves and try to give the Lady Spikers and the Lady Eagles a run for their money.
"Napag-usapan naman talaga namin na ibibigay namin lahat. Lahat. Na wala kaming pagsisisihan sa huli. At least binigyan namin ng pride ang school namin, lalo na ang bawat sarili namin," she said.
UE plays La Salle on April 24, then closes out its elimination round schedule against Ateneo on April 28.
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