After ruing missed opportunity, Lady Bulldogs looking to scale next challenge | Inquirer Sports
AVC AFTERMATH

After ruing missed opportunity, Lady Bulldogs looking to scale next challenge

By: - Sports Editor / @ftjochoaINQ
/ 04:20 AM August 09, 2022
National U stars (from left) Mhicaela Belen, Princess Robles, Alyssa Solomon, Joyme Cagande and Jen Nierva discuss with team manager Bing See Diet potential next steps for the Lady Bulldogs. —FRANCIS T. J. OCHOA

National U stars (from left) Mhicaela Belen, Princess Robles, Alyssa Solomon, Joyme Cagande and Jen Nierva discuss with team manager Bing See Diet potential next steps for the Lady Bulldogs. —FRANCIS T. J. OCHOA

The undefeated queens of the UAAP Season 84 women’s volleyball tournament whispered among each other the things they were looking forward to in the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Cup slated here later this month.

Jen Nierva, the team skipper and unofficial spokesperson of the group spoke up.

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“Of course, playing against international teams,” the ace National University libero told the Inquirer in Filipino on Monday, a day after learning that the national team ballasted by the Lady Bulldogs was suddenly withdrawn from the AVC tournament by the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF).

“When we played a tuneup game against China, we really saw how big the difference in quality was. A lot of times, when we play teams with the same level as ours, the moment Belle goes for a kill, most of the time it’s a point already for us.”

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Belle is Mhicaela “Bella” Belen, the crafty outside hitter who reigned as Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Rookie of the Year for Season 84. She and her teammates present at the 11th-floor offices of Monolith Construction and Development Corp. nodded in agreement as Nierva spoke, the look of regret over a lost opportunity very much evident in their eyes.

Greater challenge

After sweeping their way to a historic UAAP championship, they were practically untouchable, the Lady Bulldogs said they were all looking forward to a greater challenge that could help measure them.

“That’s what this team is about: what’s next?” team manager Bing See Diet said. “Okay, so we were successful in the UAAP. What’s the next step?”

Until Sunday, that next step was bolstering Team Philippines against the top Asian teams.

But in a weekend stretch that blew past them like a blur, the team went from slowly peaking to its top form for the AVC to getting frozen out of the competition.

National U responded to the PNVF call to field young stars that would end up being the training pool. The Lady Bulldogs had been training for three weeks under Brazilian coach Jorge Edson Souza de Brito before the dominoes started falling.

First, the Japanese school team that was set to participate in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Invitational Conference semifinals backed out at the last minute when one of its players tested positive for the coronavirus. On Saturday, the team learned—some members, through social media—that it would replace the Japanese squad in the PVL.

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That raised concern among players, who confirmed an earlier Inquirer report that based on the calendar of their training for the AVC, they weren’t in competition shape just yet.

Tuneups, sure they could take part of. Actual games? The Lady Bulldogs alternately explained that heading into competition, they should already be in a de-loading phase of their strength training, otherwise they would be too slow in games.

Wasted effort

Their current form could lead to a string of losses in the PVL, negative optics that the national team doesn’t need with the AVC lurking.

And as people sort through the rubble to figure out what went wrong, the Lady Bulldogs were reduced to ruing all the hard work that went to waste.

“We really put in our effort and we really would have wanted to [represent the country in the AVC]. So it’s sad,” said Princess Robles, the Season 84 Finals MVP, who was with Nierva, Belen, Alyssa Solomon and Joyme Cagande in the roundtable with the Inquirer.

“It’s a big honor for us to represent the country. And we even skipped a lot of other commitments just to play for the national team. It’s sad that our effort and sacrifice will end up for nothing,” Nierva said.

See Diet said the team will pick up the pieces and plan how they can refocus their efforts on the coming UAAP season.

“Maybe we could go to other countries and play against foreign teams because we can no longer do so for the national team. That’s the only way we can continue to get better,” See Diet said.

This is, after all, what these Lady Bulldogs are all about: an unflinching desire to find—and get to—the next level. INQ

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