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.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

UAAP Women’s Volleyball Preview: NU and UE

UAAP Women’s Volleyball Preview: NU and UE
by rick olivares

In our UAAP Women’s Volleyball preview yesterday, we took a look at Ateneo and UST; two contenders for the title. Outside the defending champion, La Salle, there’s another team that made a lot of noises in the pre-season and that’s National University.

Let’s take a look at the Lady Bulldogs and their opening day opponent, University of the East.

National University Lady Bulldogs
There is no tomorrow for this team. Or is there. They should have won it at some point any time in the last three years but simply couldn’t get the job done for a variety of reasons.

If you ask head coach Roger Gorayeb, this was the year he was looking at if the Lady Bulldogs are to ascend to the crown. The team is close to the one he envisioned when he came in midway two seasons ago. Close. There are still some setbacks.

This team made a lot of noises in the pre-season as they captured the V-League Collegiate Conference albeit with a smaller line-up and rotation.

There are three reasons – outside the continued improvement of Jaja Santiago – and that’s the superb play of setter Jasmine Nabor, the better defense, and the upbeat attitude of the team.

Nabor stepped in as a replacement for Rica Diolan who left the team after one season. That made it two losses in the playmaking position as Ivy Perez graduated. Nabor, while reed-thin, also played setter in high school so the adjustment wasn’t difficult. But she hits too as in her rookie season for the college team, she played the utility position. That makes her wholly dangerous. And she blocks too. Her “arrival” has really given this team a massive lift.

Despite the defections and graduation post-UAAP Season 78, this team came into the V-League with hardly any expectations and they played superb. The team is for now safe from the external forces within NU that have disrupted this team so much over the past few years. Winning will only help them. Losing? That isn’t an option.

It’s finals or bust for this team.

Santiago is probably the best player in the collegiate ranks right now. They will go as far as she does. However, she has a very good supporting cast. Jorelle Singh, despite being at Charles Barkley size can fly and smash a spike with the best of them, is looking to firmly establish herself in the open position with Audrey Paran backing her up.

Risa Sato who was supposed to suit up for Ateneo is now with NU and she also made an immediate impact. She adds scoring punch right up the middle alongside Santiago.

On the opposite, Roma Doromal and Aiko Urdas, another of those long-suffering veterans will tag team at that spot.

Roselyn Doria was somewhat displaced with the additions but if called upon, she’ll watch that middle just as she did last season.

Gayle Valdez vastly improved at the libero position led their defense. She’ll have rookie Joni Chavez from San Beda Alabang backing her up. They’re already very good at net defense and it looks like they have plugged the holes on the floor.

Gorayeb’s Lady Bulldogs are dangerous and will crowd La Salle at the top. They’d like to start the season with an emphatic win over University of the East that has been winless forever.

University of the East Lady Red Warriors
If you do not know anything about this team, you’d be astonished about their height and their athleticism. They’ve got Rose Baliton at six feet tall in the middle. There are outside hitters Shaya Adorador at 5’9” and Angelica Dacaymat at 5’8” and they can fly. Judith Abil is this team’s answer to UST’s Cherry Rondina – a pint-size player with Alyssa Valdez-type of power.

The onus however on Francis Vicente’s team is to get out of the cellar. More so since last year’s captain Celine Domingo departed for FEU. Seriously. Multiple and consecutive winless seasons aren’t funny at all and cannot be considered a learning experience.

In seasons past, their only victory was taking a set. One set. That’s terrible. But that’s what it is for the Lady Red Warriors – they have to take it one set at a time and build their confidence.

There’s talent here, let’s point that out. It’s playing as a team as raising the level of their play.

More to the skill, Vicente must really work on their mental toughness. In the past few seasons, you can see this team wilting sometimes even in only the first set. These girls are troopers for going out there knowing they’re gonna get demolished.

Hopefully, they’ve addressed that.

And they’re going to need a lot of that as they play NU in the very first game of Season 79 this Saturday.

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