The euphoria of winning the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Collegiate Conference crown has yet to die down, but a great question is hanging over the head of National University (NU): Is the elusive title in the 80th UAAP women’s volleyball tournament within reach?
Over 60 years from now, the Lady Bulldogs captured their first UAAP women’s volleyball title back in Season 16. They fell short to defend their throne on the following season but came back stronger in Season 19 to foil the grand slam attempt of the winningest school in the league, Far Eastern University.
After that, the Sampaloc-based squad disappeared from the spotlight.
The Lady Tamaraws, however, continued to roll as well as University of the Philippines, University of the East, University of Santo Tomas, Ateneo de Manila and reigning champion De La Salle.
But the Lady Bulldogs never stopped to try turning things around.
Led by Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Myla Pablo, and Jen Reyes, NU clawed its way back to the Final Four of the prestigious collegiate league during the time when volleyball boosted its popularity in 2013.
And with the arrival of the younger but towering Santiago, Jaja, in Season 76, the Lady Bulldogs finally scored a podium finish. They remained a force to be reckoned with until Season 77 despite the graduation of Manabat from the team.
It takes time
But fate had a cruel script for the Lady Bulldogs.
Although they won the defunct V-League’s last two crowns in 2015 and 2016, they still failed to transform their successful pre-season stints into a UAAP title. They’ve shown a lot of promise but ended up defeated in the last two seasons of the UAAP.
This time, the Lady Bulldogs vowed to bounce back and finally live up to their full potential.
“Pagtatrabahuhan po talaga namin na makarating ng championship ngayong UAAP kasi ‘yun po talaga ang goal namin. Kumabaga last UAAP po ‘yun po ang plano namin pero may mga kulang pa po.” – Jasmine Nabor
No less than former NU head coach Roger Gorayeb echoed Nabor’s statement.
The seasoned mentor strongly believed that his former wards have what it takes to dominate in the upcoming UAAP season even before they nabbed their third Collegiate Conference title.
“Possible na yun (mag-champion) ngayong season (80).”
“Ngayon ang chance talaga kasi bagong hulma lang sila last year. Kailangan lang talaga nila magkaroon ng championship experience. Hindi naman pwedeng ‘oh malakas kayo’ then champion na kaagad. Hindi.”
“It takes time.”
Gorayeb, however, reminded the Lady Bulldogs to massively prepare before heading into the biggest battle of their lives. He added that winning the most prestigious collegiate crown is highly possible as long as they stay together to fight for their school’s pride.
“Iba yung feeling kapag UAAP na because doon may pride na pinaglalabanan, nubenta porsyento ng nanunuod sa’yo estudyante na makakasalubong mo araw-araw sa school mo. Kaya nga pagdating talaga ng UAAP super pressured na lahat.”
“Pero makakaya naman basta kumpleto lang sila. Gaganda ‘yan, sabi ko nga sa kanila this is for you, pilitin niyo na mag-champion kayo ngayon.”
Gorayeb was right – the war is in the UAAP.
That’s the stage where these Lady Bulldogs are tipped to unleash one big bite.