|Sad about the past season? Pam Lastimosa and EJ Laure will be back to lead a rejuvenated UST team next season.|
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UST Lady Tigresses: Looking back at a roller coaster ride of a season
story and pics by rick olivares
The locker room inside the MOA Arena offered no solace or comfort for the UST Tigresses. Fighting to keep their season alive and for a Final Four berth, UST showed the inconsistency that plagued them all season long. They struggled in the first two sets as the FEU Lady Tamaraws looked to make short work of their University belt foe but a Pam Lastimosa-inspired comeback saw UST send it to a fifth and deciding set. Instead of a fiery comeback for the ages, they flopped rather badly scoring only six points as FEU celebrated their slot in the Final Four.
The tears flowed freely inside the locker room. Rookie sensation EJ Laure couldn’t hold back her own. She experienced the highs and the lows that wasn’t anything like she went through in high school at UST. “Doon walang nanonood tapos sa college halos hindi na magkasya yung arena sa dami ng tao,” she thought. While she mostly looked like the phenom that she is touted to be, there were days when she was every bit a rookie. Like the match against FEU where she finished with a shockingly poor five points.
“Sobrang sama ng linalaro ko hindi ko akalain na ibabalik pa ako nung fifth set,” Laure recalled. Her poor game continued. “Marami pa akong matututunan.”
“Ako naman, sobrang sama ng laro ko nung first two sets,” admitted Lastimosa who is this year’s team captain. “Sabi ko hindi ako papayag na ganito na lang. Kailangan lumaban.”
She led the way and topscored with 19 points. She got some help from Cherry Ann Rondina and Marivic Meneses who both added 11. In contrast, FEU saw four players score in double figures with Bernadeth Pons, Heather Anne Guino-o, and Geneveve Casugud each tallying 17 points with Mary Palma adding 11 of her own.
Inside the locker room, head coach Odjie Mamon poured his heart out. “Sinabi niya na lahat ng gusto niyang sabihin,” recalled Lastimosa. “It was like it was our last as a team with coach because he might not be back. It was difficult for all of us because we made mistakes. Parang we only got our act together late na and at the start of the new year – 2015 – instead of the beginning of the UAAP.”
“We think our problem is more of mental toughness,” postulated Lastimosa. “The skills and training, patterns and details, coach polishes us for that. When we’re inside the court, we don’t communicate. Then in the endgame, we sort of give up. Dumarating yung errors.”
“I made it a point before every game na nakausap ko sila (her teammates) lalo na pag sobrang crucial yung game. I’d tell then, ‘Uy kailangan natin manalo and to reach our goals. Sinasabi ko na kailangan manalo and to do this on and off the court. Feeling ko nung second round, may effect kasi umangat laro namin.” UTS rattled off three impressive wins in succession – a four-set win against Adamson followed by a pair of three-set sweeps over NU and FEU.”
The good vibes didn’t last too long as they were brought down to earth by La Salle and Ateneo. Then came the crucial match against UP.
The Tigresses looked imposing in the first set but mysteriously lost their focus in the second. They looked to have arrested their skid when they took the third set but their defense crumbled in the last two sets in what ended up as a galling five-set loss to the Lady Maroons.
“The (second round) loss to UP really hurt,” continued the team captain. “Alam naman namin na mahihirapan kami against Ateneo and La Salle. UP is better this year but we didn’t close it out well. Pero meron pa kaming chance umabot sa Final Four against FEU. Kaso hindi kami nanalo.”
“Parang kulang sa commitment at focus kami as a team,” conceded Laure.
“If you look at Ateneo, nag-super work hard sila to be where they are right now,” glowed Lastimosa of their UAAP foe. “We saw also how NU saved their season. They were not playing well then tumaas yung level nila. Kung kaya nila siguro kaya rin naman namin.”
However, there’s a chance the team that just competed might not be intact.
Mamon isn’t the only one who is doubtful to comeback. Carmela Tunay, like Lastimosa, has one more year to play, but she hasn’t said anything about playing out her final year of eligibility.
Right now the team isn’t sure where they are headed for the second semester. There’s a team meeting today where there will be discussions and possibly some announcements.
“The season is over,” proclaimed Lastimosa who also chatted with Laure about the championship series in both men’s and women’s divisions that have yet to be settled. “Maybe the meeting today will put closure to it but we are moving forward. So interesting din kung ano yung mga mapaguusapan din.”
“Next season starts now,” smiled Laure.