There will only be 12 players—at most—suiting up for the NU Lady Bulldogs in the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament.
“I have 11 players pero siguro kung magma-maximize kami we have 12,” newly-minted NU head coach Miguel shared to Volleyverse Saturday morning.
Though the mentor was already a part of NU’s volleyball program as an assistant coach since November of last year, Miguel officially took over the post previously handled by Babes Castillo only last December 17, exactly two months before UAAP action kicks off.
And naturally, being undermanned is a cause of concern for him and the rest of his coaching staff.
“Ang apprehension namin is wala talagang pamalit na. Wag naman sana magkaron ng cases ng mga injury,” the former De La Salle University Green Spikers head coach mentioned. “‘Yung dalawang outside hitter namin wala na talagang pamalit ‘yan. Kung ma-sub man sila, with a player na backrow expert lang. Ang purpose lang pag ilalabas sila is pahinga lang. Kaya dapat ang stamina nila matibay.”
This predicament, however, is nothing new to the F. Jhocson squad.
In Season 79, with then head coach Roger Gorayeb, NU only had 11 players in the line-up. Last year, with Castillo at the helm, NU paraded a 10-woman roster.
Having vast experience over the years as a coach in the collegiate, semi-pro, and National Team levels, Miguel says that seemingly overwhelming pressure becomes somewhat manageable with hard work.
“I’ll be honest, malaki ‘yung pressure sa akin considering na transition coach ako,” he said matter-of-factly. “Lahat naman tayo naga-aspire na makapasok ang teams natin sa Final Four at least. Sa team na ito, outnumbered ng rookies ang veterans at dun nanggagaling ‘yung pressure sa akin.”
“Kaya naman kung ta-trabahuhin,” added the former UST and La Salle setter.
Laying everything on the floor
Sure to give the Lady Bulldogs a huge boost is their scheduled 10-day training in Thailand starting Sunday.
Missing the height provided by the likes of Jaja Santiago and Jasmine Nabor as well as the firepower from Jorelle Singh, NU plans to polish their floor defense over the next week and a half to remain competitive.
“Sa program na ginawa namin sa schedule namin sa Thailand, nag request kami ng coach for defense and passing,” Miguel said. “Since hindi naman kami tall team, dapat mag maximize kami sa floor defense and passing. I think we have enough time naman to develop our floor defense.”
Bannered by veteran middle blocker Risa Sato, the NU Lady Bulldogs will also rely heavily on top recruits Ivy Lacsina, Joyme Cagande and Princess Robles in hopes of making a return trip to the semifinals this year.