Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Finding traction The San Sebastian Lady Stags notch their first V-League win of the season

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Finding traction
The San Sebastian Lady Stags win a five-set thriller over NCAA nemesis Perpetual Help
by rick olivares

This season has been the kind that can add more greying hairs and creases on a coach’s face.

The San Sebastian Lady Stags, 23-time NCAA Women’s Volleyball champions have tantalized with their talent. They came close to winning another title by topping the elimination round (on quotient) but come the round robin semifinals, they were blitzed 0-3 to finish at fourth place.

A few weeks after the NCAA season ended, the Lady Stags opened their Shakey’s V-League season with a four-set loss to FEU. In their second match, this time against NCAA titlist and nemesis Perpetual Help, San Sebastian found itself with an opportunity to wrap it up in four sets but Bea Uy served right into the net to send the match to a fifth and deciding set.

Aside from the ageing factor that some Vicky Belo magic can’t fix, the match can best be described as a game of runs and counter-runs and holding serves and missed opportunities.

And of course, SSCR head coach Roger Gorayeb’s thunder.

The Lady Altas’ Jamela Suyat scored three straight points after which Abigael Praca served an ace. That broke a tie and gave Perpetual Help a 16-12 lead in the third set. San Sebastian had easily taken the first set before suddenly finding themselves with all sorts of receiving and attacking problems. The Lady Altas handily won the second set, 25-17.

In the third set, San Sebastian continued to look lost. Gorayeb called time and for the first time in the match, got mad at his girls. He chided pint-sized libero Alyssa Eroa for constantly going where the scrum was while forgetting to rotate back to her spot in the back to cover the holes. He looked at setter Trisha Crisostomo whose struggles at playmaking was hurting her team.

After the timeout, the Lady Stags responded with a 6-1 bomb to take the lead behind Jolins Labiano’s three consecutive aces. However, every time it looked like San Sebastian was going to put the match away, UPHSD responded. The Lady Altas tied the match at 25-all before Sasa Devanadera, back in SSCR gold and red, scored two points to give her team the set.

San Sebastian was beset by all sorts of challenges. Gretchel Soltones was unavailable due to injury. And in the very first set, Maru Banaticla, guest player for the Lady Stags landed awkwardly after scoring off a spike.

Banaticla tried to shake it off but the pain was too much. She had to be escorted back to the bench. The guest player had done so well in the little time that she played. She opened the match with a service ace, scored on a spike, and had three excellent digs.

The score was 9-7 when she went out in favor of Denice Lim.

The Lady Altas began to find holes in the backline with Banaticla’s departure such that battling the pain, she returned with the score, 21-18, for her team. Devanadera scored then incredibly, the hobbled Banaticla scored the last two points to close out the first set, 25-18.

She didn’t return and the holes in the defense once more widened.

In that agonizing fourth set, Devanadera frustrated at her team’s inability to generate any consistent offense, yelled out loud, “Ituloy mo” to Berbano who debated whether to spike the ball or just send it across the net just to save possession. Berbano scored.

It was that indecision that riled Gorayeb. Especially at some of his veterans who were part of the last San Sebastian champion team of three years ago – Berbano, Uy, libero Mae Crisostomo, and quicker Ara Mallare. At one point, Katherine Villegas found herself in the middle with no blocker to contend with. Instead of hammering the ball down, she dropped a rather soft shot that Norie Diaz was able to dig and send back into play.

Ironically, Devanadera found herself in that position in the fifth set. With the score tied at 13-all, instead of powering her way into a point, she dropped a shot over the wall that Shaira Cabriana digged. Perpetual Help set up a play but Shallane Eniong muffed a spike for a net block that gave San Sebastian match point.

Gorayeb hollered, “Palo mo!”

Devanadera nodded.

On their next possession off a free ball, she did exactly that. And San Sebastian had evened up their win-loss record to 1-1 while Perpetual Helped dropped to 0-2 (after losing to NU in three sets in their V-League opener).

Inside the Lady Stags locker room, Gorayeb once more reminded his girls about seizing opportunities. In his pre-game talk, he said he didn’t mind losing as long as they played to their abilities. Once more sent into the fray, some of them froze and doubted themselves.

He pointed out to two players – Eroa and Crisostomo.

The pint-size Eroa (who stands below five feet) had 16 excellent digs but she could have done so much better, noted the coach. “Ikaw mag-di-direct kung saan pupunta yung bola. Kung hindi mo makuha yun wala tayong opensa.”

As for Crisostomo, she was the team’s only setter. “You must have more than 10,000 sets for the team since you began playing for me three years ago. You have all the playing time but you’re not making the most out of it. If you cannot set up your teammates properly we will have no attack.”

“But I love you girls,” he concluded. “Tomorrow we go back to work. Magututuro ako ulit.”

The grind continues.  


My first time to be inside San Sebastian's locker room. And it was good to see Roger Gorayeb and Clint Malazo after so long. Hopefully, it's not the last I'll write about this team.

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