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.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Four points to take from the FEU Lady Tams’ clinching third seed in the Final Four

Four points to take from the FEU Lady Tams’ clinching third seed in the Final Four
by rick olivares

The Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws were one of the more maddening teams in this women’s volleyball season; at least for the first round. They can be characterized as inconsistent and had this penchant for self-destruction.

How things have changed this second round for Shaq Delos Santos’ girls. 

The FEU Lady Tamaraws are peaking at the right time and will be heading into the Final Four on a hot four-match win streak. Their newfound confidence and stinginess will serve them well in the next round and perhaps, beyond.

In hindsight now with a 9-5 record — good for third — we can point out that they finally showed signs of achieving their potential in their first match of the second round against a tough De La Salle team.

FEU had no answers for La Salle that was so imperious in the first two sets that they took, 25-14 and 25-9. But the Lady Tams hung tough that third set and won 25-22. To show that it was no fluke, they took the fourth set, 25-19. They lost steam in the fifth set, losing 15-7.

They recovered in their next game, a three-set win over UE. But that’s hardly anything because everyone and their sister has walked all over the Lady Warriors for the past four seasons. True enough, Ateneo swept them in three sets.

Two losses in their first three match, there was a gauntlet of tough teams to face. And at this time of the tournament, save for UE, the middle of the pack all the way to the bottom half were all still in contention for Final Four seats. 

After their three-set loss to Ateneo, they took down National University in five sets in a match that turned their season around. The Lady Tams looked like they were going roll over NU after taking the first two sets however, the Lady Bulldogs summoned their resolve to forge a fifth set. FEU recovered in time to win that match. While one can argue that NU self-destructed in that fifth set, you have to credit the Lady Tamaraws for winning the game of nerves.

In another big match, they took down UST in four sets in a match that derailed their U-Belt neighbour while giving them loads of confidence for their next match — UP.

The streaking Lady Maroons took the first set and looked to sweep FEU. But the Lady Tamaraws won the next three. 

In the three wins, there were moments when they wavered. However, they found their resolve to finish strong.

In their final match of the elimination round, they went up against an Adamson Lady Falcons team that was hoping to end the season (with two games to spare) on a high note. While the Lady Falcons showed the toughness that they displayed early in the tournament, FEU, closed them out in four sets with the latter two forcing them to dig deep to get that win.

Like they say, matches like that develop the character of a team.

And incredibly, this team that was somewhat inconsistent for a little over half the tournament, has leapfrogged past faltering UP to take solo third in the standings.

Here are four things that we believe have been integral to this huge run of theirs.

Bernadeth Pons is bringing it
She has really picked it up a notch in this second round. Yes, she’s a veteran and is expected to do that however, I thought this second round, she took over from Chin Basas in leading the team offensively.

The setting of Gyzelle Sy
When you talk about playmakers in the UAAP Women’s Division, the past couple of years there were only two names you would usually mention - La Salle’s Kim Fajardo and Ateneo’s Jia Morado. Gyzelle Sy, who returned to FEU this season after skipping out a year, reminded everyone that she also belongs in that conversation. Look at how her excellent sets have increased the past few matches. While they are bound to go up because FEU has played the most number of sets by any team this season with a whopping total of 55 in 14 matches (UST is second having played 51 sets), Sy has nevertheless been the catalyst for this veteran-laden squad.

The leadership of Remy Palma
At one point, Coach Shaq got very upset with the Lady Tams and didn’t talk to his girls during the timeout. For successive breaks, it was Remy Palma who would lead the team in the huddle. 

Talking doesn’t necessarily translate into leadership but you can see Remy doing more — even from the bench, she’d be issuing instructions or even encouraging her team. 

The contributions of the team
If you look at the way Coach Shaq has played his squad, he regularly makes use of a large rotation. That means giving chances to a lot of players who will benefit from the experience.

Among the teams that competed for a Final Four slot, FEU, UP, and UST regularly used much of their bench as compared to Ateneo, La Salle, and NU that had shorter rotations. 

We won’t argue with the different coaches’ philosophies or game plans but it is our belief that more players getting playing time means they will help in the long run.

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