Ateneo leaders Faith Nisperos, Vanie Gandler bringing the team together, says coach
MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro is pinning his hopes on co-captains Faith Nisperos and Vanie Gandler in leading the young Blue Eagles as they seek to bounce back this UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball tournament after failed title retention bid last year.
Giving the responsibility to Nisperos and Gandler as the leaders of the team was a no-brainer for Almadro after the hard-hitting pair willed Ateneo back to the Final Four despite their slow start in the eliminations.
“Since last year, they are my leaders. But we lost another leader, Jaja [Maraguinot]. But after last season, they’re really the ones pushing the team, bringing the team together, they really want to bounce back,” said Almadro. “They are the ones I see that are really determined to lead the team. I’m really happy to have leaders like them.”
Almadro is also confident of new setter Takako Fujimoto’s potential as well as middle blockers AC Miner and Joan Narit.
“My new setter is promising. She’s really brave. She just needs a couple of games for experience. UAAP is different from the other leagues. I really hope that having NU as our first match will give her confidence going through our other games,” said Almadro.
“Miner is really an impressive middle blocker and Narit is continuously improving and hopefully in the UAAP, they will be a force to reckon with. I’m really confident in them,” he added.
Ateneo lost several key players Maraguinot, libero and former captain Dani Ravena, and spiker Erika Raagas, who helped them finish with a bronze medal after beating Adamson in a playoff and eliminating third seed UST in the stepladder semifinal last year
Despite the departure of their veteran players, Almadro puts a premium on hard work for them to reach the top.
“If we want to make it to the finals, let’s work hard and have an opportunity first to be in the Final Four. When you’re in the Final Four, you gave a chance to be in the finals,” he said. “That’s the realistic goal. First, be in the Final Four and being there, hopefully, will inspire us going further. It’s really one step at a time and being better every day.”
The Blue Eagles take on the defending champions, National University Lady Bulldogs, on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.