Tigresses, ‘feisty like chili peppers,’ look sharp despite rebuild mode
After three veteran players graduated from its roster, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Golden Tigresses began the process of rebuilding around its young holdovers with the addition of new faces that will complete the team ahead of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 86 next year.
But an early glimpse of the Tigresses’ new look shows that the squad is still in very capable hands despite the departures.
UST clinched the bronze medal in the recently concluded Shakey’s Super League National Invitationals, a stunning feat after only being tapped as a last-minute replacement to the National University Lady Bulldogs.
UST swept University of Perpetual Help, 25-20, 25-21, 17-25, 25-13, in Game 2 behind the efforts of new captain Bernadett Pepito, rising star Regina Jurado and rookies Angeline Poyos and Xyza Gula.
“Good thing the skills are already there and our core from last season is still intact so it wasn’t that hard for us,” longtime Tigresses coach KungFu Reyes said of his wards, who finished the eliminations with a 5-1 (win-loss) card.
UST stars Eya Laure, Imee Hernandez and Milena Alessandrini exhausted their playing years, with Laure and Hernandez bringing their talents to the professional league.
“At least our new faces won a medal for our team after four years. It’s a new chapter for this team. They are very young but they are feisty like chili peppers,” said Reyes.
And his young players are embracing the opportunity to step up and lead the España-based squad in the post-Eya Laure era.
“There is pressure but I have to step up inside the court. My rookie season is over and now, I have to be one of the reliable players on my team,” said Jurado after scoring 19 points in their bronze-clinching sweep of Perpetual.
Despite being an incoming rookie, Poyos has not been shy in steering her team to victories with her attacking, contributing 29 points in a tight five-set loss against UAAP champion La Salle in the eliminations and 26 points in their podium-clinching victory.
“Coach promised us that he won’t give up on us. So for us players, we don’t want to let him down. For my part, I need to perform even though I am a rookie,” said Poyos, who was hailed First Best Outside Spiker of the tournament.
“We’re not surprised with her output. We’re happy to see her transition from high school to college… We’re not wrong in keeping them on our team, we’re just waiting at the right time for them to unlock their full potential from all their hard work and sacrifices,” Reyes said. INQ