MANILA, Philippines -- National University (NU)-Sta. Elena can still get better, warned star setter Joshua Retamar after the Nationals ruled the 2022 Spikers' Turf Open Conference.
Composed of the core of the NU Bulldogs, the Nationals conquered the club competition in impressive fashion. They capped their campaign by sweeping former champions Cignal HD in the best-of-three finals. A 2-518, 23-25, 25-23, 25-23 victory in Game 2 last Saturday clinched the title for NU-Sta. Elena.
"Sobrang saya, lalo namin, 'yung mga bago, and siyempre 'yung mga seniors din," Retamar said after the match that saw him toss 20 excellent sets while also finishing with seven points.
NU is the defending champion in UAAP men's volleyball, and their performance in the Spikers' Turf underlines their status as odds-on favorites when the event returns next year. Men's volleyball was not played in Season 84 due to pandemic restrictions.
For Retamar, however, the Bulldogs still have plenty of things to work on before they can declare themselves ready for their three-peat bid in UAAP Season 85.
"Siguro, 'yung team namin nasa 60% pa," Retamar said. "Sobrang dami pa naming kailangan aralin, lalo na sa serve. Marami pa kaming lapses pagdating sa blocking."
"Masasabi ko, 'yung team namin pagdating ng UAAP, may ilang months pa kami para mag-training para mabuo namin 'yung 100%," he added.
Nico Almendras reaffirmed his status as NU's new No. 1 option, winning Most Valuable Player honors for the conference. The open hitter had 18 points in Game 2. But it was Michaelo Buddin who emerged as a new star for the Bulldogs.
Buddin earned a spot in Dante Alinsunurin's starting six midway through the conference and never let up. In the final game, he fired 22 points including 20 kills to go along with 14 receptions, and was named Finals MVP.
Retamar said Buddin will be an even better player by the time the UAAP rolls around.
"Malakas siya, at may ilalakas pa siya," the setter said. "Sana lagi lang siyang makinig, and i-open niya 'yung sarili niya sa mga tinuturo sa kanya. Malayo ang mararating niya. Kahit bata pa siya, ganoon na siya kalakas. Makikita mo na pang-international talaga."