NU Belles confident of repeat
The National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs did something unexpected last season. Starting Saturday, though, the defending champions know exactly what to expect.
“Now that we are the defending champions, everyone will be after us,” said Maria Belen, the prolific scorer who anchored NU’s perfect 16-0 season last year that ended a 65-year UAAP women’s volleyball championship wait. “Of course, the pressure will be there.”
NU opens up against formidable Ateneo Saturday as the 85th Season gets off the ground, and Belen and the rest of the squad will come into the tournament with all the confidence they need after a successful camp in Japan where they saw some of the best players in the world play.
“It won’t be easy since we’re the ones they all want to beat,” Jennifer Nieva, last season’s best libero, said in Filipino. “We’re the ones they all want to because we were on top last season.”
While few expected an NU championship last year, much less a sweep, the team said that going undefeated will just be a bonus—if it happens again.
The main thing is to retain the title.
“The sweep is not in any of our minds, but more of how to beat ourselves every training,” Nieva added. “It’s about how we keep improving, from training and while in the tournament.”
“Of course, we’re pressured, but at the same time, we love the challenge,” Belen, last season’s Rookie of the Year-Most Valuable Player, went on. “We all love to compete and we won’t just allow ourselves to be dethroned. Of course, we’ll do our best to defend it [title].”
The team admits to gaining new confidence after the Japan camp.
Ateneo just came up short in forging a championship showdown with NU last season, falling to La Salle in the semifinals.
With Vanie Gandler and Faith Nisperos again to lead the Lady Blue Eagles, Nierva said Ateneo remains as one of the teams to beat.
“Ateneo, knowing them, they are an offense-minded team. They have Faith, they have a go-to [scorer], so we just have to stick to our plans. We just have to focus on how we move.”