UAAP: Finals MVP Josh Retamar savors NU Bulldogs’ perfect season
MANILA, Philippines—Joshua Retamar relished National University’s historic win in the UAAP men’s volleyball tournament as he led the Bulldogs to a perfect Season 85 and earned his first Finals MVP and Best Setter.
It was worth the wait for Retamar after a three-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as the Bulldogs continued their dynasty with a third consecutive title in a perfect 16-0 campaign.
“Yung three years namin, alam namin excited kami lahat lalo na ngayong UAAP. Simula nung nagstart kami ang dami naming tournaments na sinalihan. Yung iba nagchampion kami. Ito yung pinaghandaan namin,” said Retamar, who dished out 17 excellent sets in their title-clinching 25-20, 25-21, 25-20 victory over University of Santo Tomas in Game 2 on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
For the former national team setter, whose sophomore year in 2020 was wiped out by the lockdown, it wasn’t easy to embrace the leadership role.
“Honestly, it was hard because we have a lot of new members. The exit of our seniors was all of a sudden. So Nico and I as well as the other seniors had a tough time in embracing the leadership,” Retamar said in Filipino. “We had a lot of problems but we’re grateful that our coaches are always there to guide us.”
It was a fulfilling journey for Retamar as he helped NU win its fifth overall crown and become the third team to sweep a season in the Final Four era, joining UST, which swept 17 games in Season 71 in 2009, and the Marck Espejo-led Ateneo that had a perfect 16-0 campaign in Season 79 in 2017.
Retamar and the Bulldogs also stretched their winning streak to 34 games, dating back to the Season 81 opener in 2019.
The Bulldogs were pushed by the young Golden Spikers to their limits in Game 1 before surviving with a 25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 29-31, 15-11 victory, where the setter also hurt his knee but continued to play.
“After having a hard time in Game 1, we were able to adjust especially in blocking. Coach Dante (Alinsunurin) taught us how to beat UST,” he said. “Of course, we trust one another in this team. We found a way to win this title.”
The NU captain, who has been very vocal for men’s volleyball, also lauded the rise of the Golden Spikers, led by rookie MVP Josh Ybañez, making the league more competitive to promote their sport.
“It has been coach Dante’s dream to take Philippine men’s volleyball to greater heights. I’m happy with their improvement and I hope the other teams would continue to improve, too, for the better of men’s volleyball competition because this is also for us,” Retamar said.