Looking at NU’s opening day win over UE
by rick olivares
It’s not the debut the National University Lady Bulldogs wanted. They were handed a huge favor with University of the East as their first assignment.
The Lady Red Warriors have been winless for quite some time. While they have talent, they had yet to put it together.
The Lady Bulldogs on the other hand are contenders for the UAAP Women’s Championship. This squad recently came home with the V-League Collegiate Championship taking down Ateneo.
I don’t know if you believe in signs and it certainly is hard to judge a team based on one match but if you go by the former, then that match opening free ball by NU that UE’s Me-Ann Mendrez capitalized on for a check ball of Jorelle Singh summed up the entire game. The Lady Bulldogs were off. Not solely by themselves but also because the Lady Red Warriors had them on their heels.
Showing vast improvement on floor defense, chemistry, and attacking verve, UE took it to NU and incredibly, the first set! To the brickbats, they hit their quota -- one won set for the entire season and more ignominiously, for the past two years! Last Season 78, NU took UE down twice in three sets; each time it was a virtual no-contest. Who knows where the Lady Red Warriors will end up if they build on that strong play and inspired showing?
I have to appreciate the play of UE with head coach Francis Vicente throwing everyone for a loop by playing Roselle Baliton at setter (she was a middle hitter last season with Dana Disquitado as their playmaker). And I was impressed for someone her height to be throwing herself across the court after loose balls and almost impossible digs.
It was great to see UE coach Francis Vicente applauding the play of his wards. Even when NU settled down, I was happy to see him explaining and teaching. That should serve his long-suffering team well for the long haul.
As for NU settling down, I thought it was the crucial substitution of Audrey Paran for Joy Doromal that got the Lady Bulldogs going. Paran scored only eight points; not much as compared to teammates Jaja Santiago (21 points) and Aiko Urdas and Jorelle Singh (both with 11 points). However, she provided scoring sock and defense.
Rookie libero Joni Chavez got her baptism of fire when Gayle Valdez faltered. Then Santiago got in on the act providing defense and scoring.
UE had an opportunity to flip the script when they nearly won the third set. They eventually fell, 25-23, but NU’s Urdas and Risa Sato scored the last two points (after some excellent receptions by Chavez). By the fourth set, the fight ad somewhat been taken out of UE as they slumped, 25-13.
It’s important to start the season on the right foot – a win. NU achieved that; ugly win or not. They’ll take it. I am a firm believer that one game does not a season make. The Lady Bulldogs are certainly much better than that performance.
Watching Santiago, I noticed her better serve – low and with wicked velocity. It flies just above the net then dives. She served such for much of the game and I don’t really recall a service error from her.
While one could be tempted to say that NU setter Jasmine Nabor didn’t play well, maybe that’s because the spotty first set comes to mind. However, she finished with 54 excellent sets on top of scoring five points. While she committed some errors, I’ll point more to first ball problems for NU.
On deck for NU this coming Wednesday is Ateneo that won in impressive fashion over University of Santo Tomas in three sets. When the Lady Bulldogs took down Ateneo during the last V-League Collegiate Conference, they didn’t have several key players who were still nursing injuries. Obviously, since that time, they have gotten healthier and are in much better spirits.
That will draw great interest as it will say something about both squads’ title aspirations.
UE on the other hand will face UP next Saturday. Both squads opened Season 78 and the Lady Maroons won in three 9although UE gave them quite a fight. It would be interesting as well to see how UE bounces back once more against top-caliber competition.