MANILA, Philippines -- National University (NU)-Sta. Elena showed that as early as now, they are ready for the upcoming volleyball wars in UAAP Season 85.
The Nationals, composed of the core of the NU Bulldogs, swept the semifinals of the Spikers' Turf Open Conference and will compete for the championship against top club Cignal HD.
For head coach Dante Alinsunurin, that they reached the finals of a club tournament is a good sign for their campaign in the UAAP. The Bulldogs are defending champions in men's volleyball, but they have not competed in the collegiate stage since 2020.
Men's volleyball was not played in UAAP Season 84, when the league returned after a two-year absence brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Ang importante lang talaga sa amin, napatunayan namin sa NU program namin na kaya namin makipagsabayan sa mga club team, kahit na baguhan 'yung mga bata," said Alinsunurin after NU-Sta. Elena's four-set win over VNS-One Alicia in the semis.
The Nationals swept Navy and outlasted Cignal HD in a five-set war to go 3-0 in the semis and book their place in the best-of-3 championship series.
"Siyempre, tulong na rin ng mga senior namin na hindi talaga bumitaw sa amin. Importante talaga, tuloy-tuloy lang kami," Alinsunurin also said.
Against the Griffins, NU-Sta. Elena got 26 points from veteran Nico Almendras, while newcomers Michaelo Buddin and Kennry Malinis combined for 20 points. NU's foreign student-athlete, Obed Mukaba, had 14 markers.
Pulling the strings for the Nationals was Joshua Retamar, who was credited with 28 excellent sets in the 25-17, 20-25, 25-21, 27-25 triumph.
Though reaching the finals is already a commendable achievement for them, Retamar believes that the Nationals still have more to show in the Spikers' Turf. Moreover, their upcoming finals series against Cignal HD is another opportunity for them to develop their chemistry ahead of the UAAP.
"Ang importante naman po sa amin dito is 'yung may matutunan kami, and 'yung jell ng team namin, 'yun ang binubuo namin kaya kami sumali sa mga ganitong liga bago 'yung UAAP," said the setter.
"Ayun nga, malalaman namin kung asan pa kami ngayon and ano pa 'yung kaya naming gawin sa tulong nitong Spikers' Turf at iba pang liga na sasalihan namin," he added.
Game 1 of the finals series between Cignal HD and NU-Sta. Elena is on Thursday, 5:30 p.m. at the Paco Arena in Manila.