UAAP Finals experience greatly beneficial to young Tigresses, says Kung Fu Reyes
MANILA, Philippines—It could’ve been the mother of all turnarounds, but University of Santo Tomas could only do so much.
Head coach Kung Fu Reyes led the Golden Tigresses from a seventh-seed finish in 2018 to the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball finals the following year where they eventually lost to Ateneo in three games.
And Reyes did that with, arguably, the least experienced team the UAAP finals has seen in almost a decade.
UST barged into the finals with eight rookies in its lineup and only five players with Final Four experience, a conundrum that plagued Reyes against Ateneo but a privilege moving forward.
“This is great for us because can you imagine how many rookies were playing for us inside? And that’s the good thing for us because whatever they experienced here in the finals will be a learning lesson for us,” said Reyes in Filipino Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
UST stunned Ateneo in Game 1 with a 25-17, 25-16, 25-20, sweep but fell short in the next two games with the Lady Eagles flexing their experience against the Golden Tigresses.
Ateneo never missed the Final Four the past five years and got back at the Golden Tigresses in Game 2, 26-24, 14-25, 25-21, 25-15, before clinching the crown in Game 3, 25-17, 25-22, 25-22.
Despite the finals loss, the Golden Tigresses had the biggest turnaround in the Final Four era.
UST were 4-10 in Season 80 and went 10-4 in Season 81 where it made its first finals appearance since Season 73.
“No one expected us to be in the finals, but we won’t ever quit,” said Reyes. “We were in seventh place before, then sixth, the highest we got was third but through Sisi’s sheer will we were able to get to the finals,” said Reyes, referring to his star player Cherry Rondina.
Rondina, the Season 81 MVP, willed the Golden Tigresses in her final year, scoring a league-best 259 points in the eliminations, but UST’s bid took a huge blow after Rookie of the Year Eya Laure sprained her left ankle in Game 2.
“Our scorers got injured, the second game was supposed to be a different story if only we were fully healthy,” said Reyes. “It happened for a reason.”
“Maybe the Lord told us to ‘just settle here first’ and that we shouldn’t rush things. At least, now we have a basis that we can use for the next seasons.”