MANILA, Philippines – Even though they failed to reach their goal in the UAAP Season 79 women's volleyball tournament, Far Eastern University (FEU) coach Shaq delos Santos remains proud of the effort of the Lady Tamaraws.
Tabbed as one of the potential Finals contenders, thanks to a powerful roster that includes MVP candidate Bernadeth Pons, the Lady Tamaraws' Season 79 campaign ended in the Final 4 against top-seeded Ateneo de Manila University.
FEU fell into a two-set hole, rallied to claim the third set, and very nearly stole the fourth frame. However, Ateneo was able to hold its own in the final rallies, and emerged with a 25-22, 25-10, 16-25, 26-24 win to advance to the Finals.
"Slow start talaga 'yung kanina," Delos Santos acknowledged after the game. "Pero knowing them naman, alam naman namin na lalaban sila hanggang dulo."
"Kinapos lang ulit kami sa end game," he added. "Sobrang dikit naman 'yung nangyari, pero ganoon talaga. Wala tayong magagawa."
[We had a slow start, but I knew they would fight until the end. Unfortunately, we fell short in the end game. We made it close, but we couldn't get over the hump. That's just how it is.]
It marked the third time in Season 79 that FEU had lost to Ateneo in heartbreaking fashion. Both of their elimination round matches were five-set encounters that went the way of the Lady Eagles.
The Final 4 loss was obviously more painful, as the Lady Tamaraws were playing in a do-or-die affair. Nevertheless, Delos Santos said they should chalk it up to experience and use the bitter defeat to fuel them in Season 80.
"Challenge para sa amin 'yung mga ganoong bagay, para sa mga susunod pa na season, mas mai-improve pa namin 'yung team namin," he said. "So hopefully, mas mapaghandaan pa namin ng mabuti."
"Ako, sobrang proud ako sa team namin," Delos Santos also stressed. "Kasi, up and down, pero kahit anong mangyari sa team namin, sobrang hindi sila nag-stop. Andoon lagi 'yung dedication nila."
[This is a challenge for us to improve next season. Hopefully, we can prepare well for that. I'm still very proud of the team. We had an up-and-down season, but they never stopped.]
FEU is only losing its talismanic captain, Remy Palma, to graduation, and will still have Pons, Chin-Chin Basas, and the vastly improved Jeanette Villareal in Season 80. With another season under their belts, converted setters Kyle Negrito and Gel Cayuna should be ready to shoulder a bigger load next year as well.
Season 80 will be an especially crucial season for the Lady Tamaraws, as FEU is hosting the UAAP season. As early as now, Delos Santos is feeling the pressure that inevitably comes with hosting.
"Siyempre, kailangan namin na mas maghanda, kasi host kami," he said. "Mas kailangan namin mag-step up."
"Alam naman namin na makakaya namin, dahil sobrang suportado kami ng FEU," he added. "Lahat naman, sobrang and'yan lagi para sa amin, at nararamdaman namin na tutulungan kami until the end."
[We have to work hard because we're the hosts. We have to step up. I know that the entire FEU community will support us until the end.]
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