MANILA, Philippines -- As they enter UAAP Season 85 with the unfamiliar designation of defending champions, will the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs have their seniors in the fold?
It's a question that team captain Princess Robles has yet to categorically answer, while libero Jennifer Nierva has made it clear that she hopes to return for another year with the Lady Bulldogs.
NU is coming off a season for the ages, as they won all 16 of their matches in UAAP Season 84 to end a 65-year title drought. While their celebrated rookie class led by MVP Bella Belen earned plenty of credit, the presence of their veterans were instrumental in the finals.
Indeed, it was Robles, who was steady throughout their campaign and kept the young NU players on an even keel, who earned Finals MVP honors.
Asked if she intends to return for Season 85, Robles said: "Undecided pa po ako."
"[Pero] ang hirap po kasing iwan 'yung team," the captain also admitted. "Super love ko po kasi sila."
Nierva, for her part, is eager to run it back. The libero told the NU community after their Game 2 win against De La Salle University on Tuesday that she still wants to keep playing with the Lady Bulldogs. She later told ABS-CBN News that one championship in the collegiate level has only made her hungry for more success.
"Actually, kaya po nag-decide talaga ako. Sabi ko, talagang decided na ako that I really want to play one more year for NU, because now na nag-champion kami, sabi ko, hindi pwedeng isa lang eh," she said.
"Gusto ko back-to-back, para hindi 'yung tsamba lang," she added. "Gusto ko pa po maglaro ulit."
NU coach Karl Dimaculangan is not forcing his seniors to make a decision immediately. It won't only be Nierva and Robles, as half of the Lady Bulldogs' roster are set to graduate at the end of the academic year. They will still have UAAP eligibility, however.
"As of now, hindi pa namin napag-uusapan ulit 'yan, kung anong plano next season," said Dimaculangan. "Enjoy-in muna namin 'tong season na 'to."