Winning title was never in doubt, real aim was sweeping field
Without batting an eyelash, National University (NU) team captain Princess Robles—seeing the blossoming talent around her—said she knew they’d win Season 84 of the UAAP women’s volleyball championship via a sweep.
“At the start of the season, I told Ivy [Lacsina] and Jen [Nierva] that we can sweep this,” said Robles in Filipino. “But we knew it would be difficult, so we had to put in a lot of hard work first.”
And she wasn’t the only one who had the vision of a 16-game run that gave the Lady Bulldogs their title in 65 years. Just about every one in the core, including Rookie-Most Valuable Player (MVP) Mhicaela Belen, Nierva and Alyssa Solomon all answered yes to the same question.
“We were very confident to complete a sweep. Because of our hunger to win every game. And you can see it in our training,” said Belen, the league’s first-ever Rookie-MVP. Belen said they practiced twice a day and never complained.
Not even once.
“We didn’t try to relax. We planned every game and kept pushing,” she said in Filipino. The 22-year-old open spiker personified the Lady Bulldogs’ grit that she wowed even her senior teammates.
“Even though it was always hard training for us, we never saw Bella (Belen’s nickname) get tired,” quipped Nierva, the starting libero and one of the team elders. “We are proud of her, she should next be playing in the VNL (Volleyball Nations League).”
Nierva herself felt very confident they could complete a perfect season: “It’s not just because we have the skill, but you can see it in the way we trained every day. Even though it was hot in the gym and practice was hard, we saw in our young teammates that we shared the same goal.”
For Solomon, the top opposite spiker of the season, the telltale signs was in how they dominated the high school division as part of the NU-Nazareth School champion teams of Seasons 81 and 82—the last year also by sweep.
“We were able to do it in high school, so I was also confident we can make it this year in college, plus I saw the trust we have in each other and the trust of our coaches,” said Solomon, who was also a rookie.
Nierva and Robles are among those graduating next year, according to head coach Karl Dimaculangan. But both of them said they would like to stretch their playing years however possible.
“I’m still undecided. But it’s going to be difficult to leave this team,” said Robles. “The long time we are together, even though we miss home due to our bubble training, just being with them is enough for us to forget our troubles.”
Nierva said: “I really want to play some more, don’t know yet how and we have to plan and everything. But first let us enjoy the moment and talk about it later.”
Meantime, Belen, Solomon, setter Camilla Lamina and middle blocker Sheena Toring all just finished their rookie years, making an NU dynasty an great possibility.
“Now that we made a history for NU, I hope this continues,” said Belen.
Yet, just like what they did in sweeping the season, the Lady Bulldogs will have to dream it first—and work hard for it again.
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