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One Game At A Time

V-League finals a mind game

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In volleyball, each side has an ample amount of space to execute three touches of the ball and set up an attack. In the finals of the Shakey’s V-League, however, the game is actually playing out in the minds of the players.

In her Inquirer story of Game 2 of the championship between UST and Ateneo, Jasmine W. Payo quoted UST coach Odjie Mamon, whose Tigresses couldn’t sweep the Lady Eagles: “The pressure affected the girls today. It was a good fight. But when it comes to the championship, it’s more in the mind than skills.”

It was UST’s turn that day to succumb to the pressure of winning it all, just as Ateneo couldn’t sustain its opening-set fire in Game 1.  UST back then scored all the crucial points to close out the last three sets, compelling pundits to believe that the Tigresses’ experience in cardiac games bailed them out anew.

Nevertheless, Ateneo revealed in Game 2 that years of playing together kept the Lady Eagles in good stead and they held off UST to force a rubber match on Sunday. It helped the Lady Eagles that they got a boost from shock trooper Ella de Jesus, who came off the bench to knock in four hits that mattered in the four-set win.

It now comes down to which team is able to survive the heat on Sunday. Sure, the teams will have had four days to tinker with their plays and work on their defensive skills on their own spaces of the floor.

However, the challenge to the coaches will be how to rev up their players to keep their arms steady for blocks and digs and to stay alert to the changing trends in the game. It all plays out in the minds of the players at this point since these are two talented teams that rolled over the field in the tournament.

In terms of specifics, UST has to keep its eyes peeled for Thai import Phee Nok Kesinee, who popped 13 markers in Game 2—a lot when you consider there at best only 25 points per set. Kesinee injects an intensity that rubs off on the younger Lady Eagles, who always need a main scorer to keep their game in tune.

The Tigresses will, of course, mark Alyssa Valdez and Fille Cainglet, but special attention has to be given to Phee because she is a potential scorer with kills and blocks.

Ateneo will have to be wary of Judy Caballejo and Maruja Banaticla who play with fire and no fear of blocks. But if the break between Game 2 and 3 managed to give Mary Jean Balse some healing time, the Lady Eagles will have to be aware of the veteran who never seems to lose the desire to score and block.

Balse has already brushed aside the irritation from an injured knee to help the UST cause, so one more flat-out game can be expected from her.

On Sunday, watch the eyes of the players on each side of the court. Peer through the windows of their minds. That’s where you will find the winner of this championship.


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