This appears in philstar.com
Contrasting games by Roger Gorayeb’s volleyball teams
by rick olivares
Last Wednesday, January 7, Roger Gorayeb coached two volleyball games in two different leagues.
His San Sebastian Lady Stags lost in three sets to the tough and still undefeated Arellano Lady Chiefs then he drove through the early afternoon traffic from San Juan all the way to Pasay for the National University Lady Bulldogs’ match against the University of Santo Tomas Lady Tigers.
The pre-tournament favorites were the defending champions, Perpetual Help Lady Altas and the Arellano University Lady Chiefs. Yet somehow, the Lady Stags gave a good account of themselves despite fielding an undersized line-up.
I thought that Vira Guillema gave SSCR some stability at the setter position to complement incumbent Trisha Crisostomo and despite losing some firepower with the graduation of Czarina Berbano and Ara Millare, Gorayeb’s underdogs competed.
The Lady Stags have two threats from the wings in Gretchel Soltones and Jolina Labiano yet lack the consistent middle attack that Arellano U has. Nikka Arabe and Katherine Villegas have provided help but lack the consistency to keep opposing defenses from locking onto Soltones.
The first game of their round robin Final Four encounter with top-ranked Arellano can be summed up in two plays.
The first was during the second set when Soltones blocked AU’s Danna Henson. Henson’s wiry frame is deceiving because she packs a lot of power in her hits and has wondrous leaping ability in her. She instinctively saved the ball to setter Angelica Legacion who sent it back to her for the smash and point; 18-14 for AU.
The second play can be condensed into one and these are the three long rallies during the match that were all won by the Lady Chiefs. If anything it showed the resiliency of the Michael Cariño’s volleyball team.
The Lady Stags were able to post huge leads over the Lady Chiefs at the start or in the middle of each set but were never able to maintain their advantage (AU had five service errors in the first set alone yet they led). In all three sets, the Lady Stags unraveled after a spate of errors allowed Arellano to catch up.
During the second set with SSCR holding a 10-4 lead, AU looked like their were going to give up another point following a poor reception when the Lady Chief’s Elaine Sagun dropped a shot while going out of bounds. The ball found a wide hole in the middle. A few plays later, the score was even.
A Nikka Dalisay service error followed by an error by Soltones and a superb block on the latter by CJ Rosario. Then there was Henson’s point following the Soltones block on her, 18-14, Lady Chiefs.
In the third set, the Lady Stags twice posted five-point leads, the last at 16-11, but the errors once more killed them. The Lady Chiefs swept them aside, 25-18, 25-19, and 25-21.
Soltones didn’t have enough help (although Arabe came through in the third and last set).
Gorayeb was understandably angry that his girls couldn’t get over the hump. He pointed out that while Arellano celebrated their points, they kept it to a minimum as they quickly put on their game faces. The Lady Stags on the other hand massively celebrated each point like they were happy to get one over Arellano.
Now they are down to the last two games where they need to win and win convincingly (won and lost number of sets are just as important).
Over at the UAAP, Gorayeb arrived during the second set where he watched the Lady Bulldogs race to a two sets to none lead against UST. Although the Lady Tigers forced a fifth set where NU fashioned out a hard-earned and huge win, the changes were noticeable (I’ll get to that in a bit).
Both NU and UST were tabbed to contend for a Final Four slot yet both are struggling. The Lady Bulldogs understandably have missed a beat as they lost some vital cogs from the previous campaign but UST… has a better team this year yet are struggling.
Looking at them, I think both squads have defensive issues. After a terrific opening day win, UST has come grinding to a halt. Granted that NU’s win came over a struggling team it still counts as a win and hopefully a turning point in their campaign. During their first ever practice under Gorayeb, the veteran coach was shocked that they were not going after balls. Practice didn’t even seem to have that urgency indicating a team that has misplaced priorities and a lack of fire. Yesterday in the first set, the Lady Bulldogs were scrambling for balls all over the court. It’s a noticeable change but how far they go is still anyone’s guess.
Jaja Santiago led all scorers with 28 huge points while Myla Pablo added 15 of her own. For UST, EJ Laure led the Lady Tigers with 16 points while veteran Pam Lastimosa added 13.
I wonder if it’s right to put their weight of their volleyball worlds on young players who obviously lack the maturity and experience to carry teams with high expectations. That is where the veterans come in. They don’t have to be the focal point of the offense but their leadership is crucial. It’s oft said and mentioned but rarely is it given much thought. Leadership shouldn’t be the most senior player but who can best whip everyone’s butts into collective shape.
While La Salle and Ateneo are pulling away from everyone, the middle of the pack is crowded and every game is crucial. Perhaps save for floundering UE that is 0-6 and has lost all 18 sets, both NU (3-3) and UST (1-6) are mathematically still in the hunt.
The one thing Gorayeb’s two teams have in common is they are out to save their seasons. One (SSCR) will see their fate decided this Friday while the other (U) has a chance to continue to move up or down in the standings this Sunday.