The Adamson Lady Falcons thought that UAAP Season 80 will finally be the year that they break their Final Four drought. They had a 5-5 record with four games left in the preliminary round and they needed at least two wins to have a strong claim of a semifinal slot.
But it wasn’t meant to be. They lost three straight games to Ateneo, FEU, and De La Salle in that order which essentially put them out of contention. A win over the UST Golden Tigresses ended their season at 6-8, just one win short of NU’s 7-7 record for the fourth playoff spot. To make matters more frustrating, the Lady Bulldogs were at a 1-6 slump after starting the tournament 6-1.
Until now, Season 76 was the last time when Adamson breached the postseason with players such as Shiela Marie Pineda, May Macatuno, Amanda Villanueva, and Mayette Zapanta. But with a roster that lost the likes of Fenela Emnas, Mylene Paat, and Jema Galanza, returning to the Final Four will be an uphill climb for the San Marcelino crew.
Therefore, if Adamson’s UAAP Season 81 will be turned to a movie, it will be titled…Finding Success.
Tempered positivity for Padda
For Lady Falcons head coach Airess Padda. the preparation has been challenging due to the off-season injuries suffered by their key players. “Honestly, it’s really been mahirap. We have had several injuries within the last few months. We are still not as healthy as we want us to be so with that said, our preparation has been inconsistent. There have been key players that have been out for a while and they are just getting back into training so I don’t feel the best as I should going into this UAAP.”
One of the players on the path to recovery is newly-appointed team captain Eli Soyud who suffered a meniscus tear during last year’s PVL Open Conference. Joining her to lead the Lady Falcons’ charge are Joy Dacoron, Ceasa Joria Pinar, Chiara Permentilla, Bernadette Flora, and libero Toni Rose Ponce. In support are rookies Kritch Macaslang, Gracelchen Ave, and Trisha Genesis. Also part of the roster are Lei Ann Perez, Nina Balang, and Hannah Infante.
Despite their cautious preparations, there are still reasons that excites Padda for the upcoming tournament. “Half of the line-up this season are rookies, and the other half are all players that were coached by me ever since I got here. I feel good about that. Like the system that we have created over the last two years now is actually looking very good,” she added.
Even though she lost reliable scorers like Galanza and Paat, the American mentor is optimistic her player’s development. “We have been trying to get to a place to speed things up so I guess it has been going good with our offense. I feel good about that. I think most coaches would be worried about the mismatch that most of the players are rookies and become ate’s. They bring a different fire and I think it brings a nice energy on the court.”
Settling dilemmas at setter
With Emnas maxing out her UAAP eligibility, Padda hands over the reins of the Adamson offense to setters Mary Jane Igao and Nikka Yandoc. Aside from the trust she gives her young playmakers, Padda gives them the freedom to be comfortable with their game. “We just tell them don’t compare yourself to her(Emnas). Its just a wrong mindset to have. We try our best not to stress themselves and be anybody but themselves,” she expressed.
The straight-forward coach also shared the core concern among her ball distributors. “I think the issue is they do not know who they are as a setter and they do not want to know who they want to be. We have been trying to mold them but we are trying to set a bar for them and sometimes it feels difficult for them because they know what Fhem (Emnas) did for us last year and they see the hitters that we have now are more seasoned even though are players from last year, Bernadeth Flora and Chiarra Permentilla, are much better than they were last year. Much more aggresively than they were last year.”
Yet despite this dilemma, Padda still nurtures them with confidence. “Sometimes they feel it is pressure but I just tell them this is the ball and this is what you have to do. There is no grey area, there is no in between. It has been frustrating for them and it has been frustrating for me because there is nothing we can do to speed up the process. They are both rookies. This is going to be their 1st time setting in the UAAP, and that will never change. What we can do is push them everyday and be the best they can be.”
Despite these contentions, Padda is still looking at this season on a positive light. But for them to soar to greater heights, the need everyone to buy into the a singular approach.