National University (NU) finally laid claim to a title that had its name on it all season—one that actually eluded the Lady Bulldogs for the past 65 years.
With a super lineup borne out of its high school program and a hunger that was unmatched, NU brushed off La Salle, 25-15, 25-15, 25-22, to sweep the best-of-three title series of UAAP Season 84 women’s volleyball championship Tuesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“We are super happy because everything that we went through in training was all erased,” said Cess Robles, the NU team captain, in Filipino. “All our tiredness and exhaustion were erased.”
It was a perfect 16-game season for NU, which earned its first title since Season 19 in 1956-1957, and it put a halt to the dominant era of the big schools largely represented by the 11-time champion Lady Spikers.
Despite having that championship system of well-respected coach, Ramil de Jesus, La Salle simply could not rely on young and untested but courageous talents to bail the Lady Spikers out. They actually failed to win a single set over the Lady Bulldogs in all four matches they played this year.
The Lady Bulldogs displayed championship heart, pedigree and talent in the season that was staged under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mhicaela Belen displayed heroics commensurate to her rare Rookie-Most Valuable Player award, blasting 10 of her 16 points in the first frame to set the tone of the match.
“We are super proud of what we did, it was all worth it,” said Belen, who this early is expected to form the backbone of the Lady Bulldogs’ attempt to establish a dynasty of their own.
“My only goal [at the start of the season] was to help NU win the championship,” added Belen. “I didn’t expect to win all these individual honors.”
Alyssa Solomon led NU with 18 points, while Ivy Lacsina and Robles added eight and six, respectively, demonstrating how well the Lady Bulldogs played their respective parts in the team’s system.
Libero Jen Nierva and setter Camilla Lamina provided stability for the Lady Bulldogs, who saw a revolving door of coaches throughout the years until Karl Dimaculangan—a champion player himself for University of Santo Tomas—came on board.
“Lesson that we learned here is that it is never easy to win a championship,” said Dimaculangan. “If you only saw how we worked very hard to prepare for this season, you’d appreciate this even better.”
Dimaculangan, whose first stint as UAAP coach was with University of the East, refused to look at the promising road ahead for the Lady Bulldogs.
Not yet, anyway.
“The important thing now is to celebrate this title and enjoy this as much as possible,” added Dimaculangan. INQ
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