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.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Looking at NU’s 5-set win over UP

Looking at NU’s 5-set win over UP
by rick olivares

The weekend of UAAP Women’s Volleyball matches may somewhat be described as – grand larceny.

Ateneo stole two sets from La Salle and the result was a four-set win over their stunned arch-rival. Adamson won their first set of the season and could have done better except they fell apart allowing UE to take its first win at their expense. And it was the same thing when National University up-ended University of the Philippines in five-sets. The Lady Bulldogs ended their three-match slide while the Fighting Lady Maroons endured a third straight loss.

Yet even with NU’s win – and look, one losing streak was going to end here while another was going to continue – it doesn’t mean they are out of the woods just yet.

They looked great and close to the form of their first three wins of the season before looking befuddled again in the third, fourth, and much of the fifth set. Who knows? This is where they perhaps turn their season around. But that remains to be seen.

How did NU snatch this huge win?
Jaja Santiago had a lot of help. After missing for quite a while, Jorelle Singh (15 points) showed up and middle hitter Risa Sato (12 points) contributed mightily especially with her terrific serves. During that fifth set deficit, 10-6 for UP, NU’s two constants were in the flow.. Santiago in front and Sato serving. Audrey Paran, the team’s super sub as of late, only came in the fifth set and she helped out.

Even Roselyn Doria, the team’s starter alongside Santiago in the middle last season, played the fourth set and helped out despite her team losing to UP in that frame.

I thought that Roger Gorayeb did his best coaching job of the season thus far, when he held back on his anger and disappointment to keep it light, to talk strategy, and give a lot of confidence to some of his struggling players in Singh and setter Jasmine Nabor.

These past few years, the question surrounding NU has been two things – mental fortitude and the Michael Jordan conundrum. The last one refers to how the Chicago Bulls were called the Jordanaires; a derisive term used to describe the supporting cast. Only when they stood up did the Bulls win a championship and by then the other players were called by their first names or by the tag “the Big Three” in reference to Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Horace Grant for their first wave of titles and later to Jordan, Pippen, and Dennis Rodman for the last trifecta of championships.

It is incumbent upon Gorayeb to get other players to support Santiago lest the effort be wasted. And for this team, anything less than a championship berth – given their off-season success – will be a massive disappointment and have ramifications.

How did UP lose this?
The game started ominously when setter Arielle Estrañero served for an error. Things fell apart for them and not soon after, libero Pia Gaiser went down with what looks to be a season-ending knee injury.

Gaiser also started the season coming off sick bay necessitating changes in the line-up and in positions. Yet, UP looked great in spite of Gaiser missing the first couple of matches and the changes in roles.

Unfortunately, the Fighting Lady Maroons have gone from four straight wins to three straight losses. They went from a confident bunch to one with a crisis in confidence. The team learned how to win during Season 78 and this year where they ambushed squads left and run with their energetic brand of volleyball. But now, it’s also handling expectations, something they had to deal with in last year’s second round. However, now as a legitimate contender, that’s different and yet unfamiliar territory. Not one team does not prepare for them. It’s now the others doing the ambushing.

Head coach Jerry Yee knew the importance of the match versus NU. For the first time in a while, he “coached all match long” meaning he stood and handled every single timeout. He taught, reminded, got mad, and pretty much like Gorayeb, try everything in his playbook.

You cannot dismiss UP as a flash in the pan. They did pick up some big wins these past two years. Now they need to not only regain their confidence but also play consistently. So it’s consistency with the performance of certain players (Isa Molde included). That can be expected from the youngsters so the onus on the veterans to know what to do and provide what is expected.

Conspicuously missing during the slide is middle hitter Kathy Bersola who was prominent in their wins. She not only scored but she helped on defense if not with her serve. Yee has demonstrated a willingness to bench players if they do not perform according to their capabilities. Even Nicole Tiamzon has been sent to the bench (against Ateneo).

The one constant for UP has been Diana Carlos. She had help from Marian Buitre and Tiamzon against NU but come crunch time, they all fell apart.

Here’s the question…

Does Yee move players around again? Will he move Estrañero to libero again because I don’t think Justine Dorog has it down pat just yet. And if he does, will Mae Basarte and Nicole Tiamzon tag team at setter? That might help Isa Molde who has struggled with consistency as well.

Next up for them is UE. One might be tempted to say that lighter opposition is good medicine. But you should be careful for what you wish for because UE aren’t exactly pushovers and they are coming off a morale-boosting win.

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