by rick olivares
If you’re a volleyball fan, you can’t help but feel for the Adamson Lady Falcons and the University of the East Red Warriors. While the former historically has put up competitive teams, the latter has a history of underachieving.
Sadly for UE, underachieving has become an understatement. Ever since Ateneo, NU, and UP got serious with their programs years ago, the Lady Red Warriors have recited nothing but a litany of futility. Adamson has hit the skids as well. I’d chalk up their woes to some veterans opting not to play, the politics of this program, and their rebuilding phase.
And to borrow the jokes of pundits, the two teams are on a collision course to determine who “wins the championship” – or staying out of the cellar.
It is always painful to watch young teams learn how to win. Having said that, I think the television coveror should be a little more circumspect with their showing the huddles with both squads constantly getting scolded or told off by their coaches. We hear that once and that’s enough.
The Lady Red Warriors cannot be viewed in the same light as UE despite their underachievement. They are certainly better in terms of play this year. I think in years past, I called them the escalera sisters – to marry that mahjong term with the reference to goofiness of Tito, Vic, and Joey in Iskul Bukol -- because they were dead last in all categories from win-losses, sets won, scoring, spiking, blocking, serving, digging, setting, and receiving. Those are nine categories.
This year, despite toting a 0-4 record, UE has won two sets (while Adamson has yet to win one set). They have scored more points than four other teams although they have surrendered the most number of points (only because they have played more sets than Adamson).
The Lady Red Warriors are third in blocking, fourth in serving, fifth in digging, and second in receiving. A week ago, they were ranked higher in spiking and setting but have since tumbled to last place in both categories.
Team captain Shaya Adorador is tied for fifth in scoring while Seth Marione Rodriguez is the third best blocker. Sel Baliton, though lumbering at setter and somewhat reverted to middle hitter at one point during the match against UST is moving better and contributing.
The one Lady Red Warrior who has really raised the level of her game is libero Kathleen Arado who is tops in digging and receiving. Without her, UE would have not been as competitive.
Save for their opening day first set win over NU, UE has mostly started out poorly and have this gargantuan task of trying to overhaul leads. At times, they’ve had the lead in certain sets but have been unable to close them out.
Though there is slight improvement, the results are equally encouraging and disappointing. Disappointing because this is a veteran crew they have and the relative maturity that comes with age should somewhat help them get over the hump. Of course that isn’t a given.
At this point, aside from the obvious recruiting better players and with all due respect to the coaching staff of Francis Vicente, what the UE Lady Red Warriors need to do is work on their mental toughness and riding themselves of that losing mentality. Take note that when things do not go their way they fall apart very quickly.
Case in point, the season opener versus National University. Had they taken that third set, who knows where UE would be now? That third set was theirs but they folded. And it was the same versus FEU. They took the third set but ran out of steam in the fourth as the Lady Tamaraws cruised to their second win in four matches.
I believe that while coaches and players talk about focus, following the game plan, and working hard, mental toughness is something that isn’t worked on. Is skills training and practice enough?
Definitely not. Let’s look at how some former losing programs arrested their long skids.
When one coach took over this school varsity team in 2009, they were mired in a forever losing streak where opposing teams chalked up an automatic W even before the match was played. This coach began the off-season with a team meeting in front of a statue of perhaps the school’s most famous alumnus. “We will try to achieve something historic,” he told his team. They changed the culture. The team ate together, watched games and broke down strategies together.
Winning didn’t happen right away. But they began to narrow the gap. Playing five-setters, first losing then winning them.
Another coach took over another team that for quite too long has been synonymous with underachievement. In order to rid the team of its losing mentality, he instituted small deliverable goals. Ones they can achieve and build on. Each and every player was aware of the goals and what they needed to do. And the winning came; the turnaround noticeable in the very first season.
I’d like to suggest that this goes beyond x’s and o’s and they should look at the mental aspect of the game. They need to not only realize this and but they need to do something about it. And cease those battling for those misplaced championships to stay out of the cellar.