Behind UST's hot start in UAAP volleyball: 'Fantastic' coaching staff

Behind UST’s unbeaten start in UAAP volleyball: The ‘fantastic’ coaching staff

/ 05:40 PM March 12, 2024

UST Tigresses coaches KungFu Reyes UAAP

UST Tigresses’ coaching staff–led by head coach KungFu Reyes–in the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament. –MARLO CUETO/

MANILA, Philippines —It takes a village to form a contender.

And behind the University of Santo Tomas’ sizzling start that has the team looking every bit of a title threat in the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament is what coach KungFu Reyes calls a “fantastic” village of a coaching staff.


The Golden Tigresses have proven that they are for real after winning their first five games including stunning victories over the finalists of the past two seasons, defending champion La Salle and National University.


READ: UAAP volleyball: UST Tigresses counter height with heart in taking down La Salle

Despite the departure of Eya Laure and last year’s core members, the new breed of UST volleyball has shown bravery and resilience in every game to earn the school’s best start since its 6-0 record in the 2010-11 season.

Reyes and his coaching staff–composed of seasoned PVL coaches–have instilled discipline and determination in prized recruits Angge Poyos, Regina Jurado, Jonna Perdido, and Xyza Gula, middle blockers Margaret Banagua and Bianca Plaza, setter Cassie Carballo, and libero captain Detdet Pepito.

Every position covered

UST Tigresses coach UAAP

The UST Tigresses coaching staff on the bench during a UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball game. –MARLO CUETO/

Reyes, who has been UST women’s coach since 2015 with his longtime deputy Ian Fernandez, bolstered his coaching staff by making sure there’s someone in charge of every crucial detail for the Tigresses.

Shaq Delos Santos was brought back as an assistant to focus on the development of middle blockers with fellow assistants Rico De Guzman and Robertly Boto. Lerma Giron serves as the floor defense specialist, while strength and conditioning coaches Kevin Villegas and Eugene Louis as well as Physical Therapist Alyssa Tomas are tasked to ensure the Tigresses are in their peak form.

“Coach Ian and I are the main men here, but we can’t handle all positions so it’s a big help for us [having these coaches],” Reyes told Inquirer Sports in Filipino.


READ: UST Tigresses whip Ateneo for 5-0 record in UAAP volleyball

“They bring the wisdom and their attention to all the details. The job is easier for us now. We used to focus on just the wing players so some aspects were left behind. Now everyone’s working hard and we don’t waste any time.”

This setup has allowed Reyes’ crew to give equal attention to training the wing spikers and the setters, as well as bolstering the team’s frontline–which was the most affected after the departure of key players from last year’s run.

And with Giron, a former Adamson head coach in Seasons 82 and 84, onboard–UST liberos Pepito and Maribeth Hilongo also get extra focus in training.

READ: UAAP volleyball: UST Tigresses channel ‘Mamba Mentality’ in latest win

“They make my job easier. I’m the one in charge [during the game], while they take over for me when the players are out,” said Reyes.

“They have all been head coaches [at one point.] Even coach Rico was once my head coach in the Army. Coach Shaq was the head coach of the national team in 2019, and I was the trainer. So we know each other’s system.

“Ian and I have been together a long time and we know what we want to do just by looking at each other.

“Lerma brings us the motherly approach, so [this set-up] is a good thing for us.”

Focusing on the middle

Shaq Delos Santos UAAP UST coach

Shaq Delos Santos–a former head coach of the Tigresses–is back as an assistant for Kung Fu Reyes. –MARLO CUETO/

Delos Santos, the last coach to lead UST to a title in Season 72, was supposed to return to the school as consultant in 2020 but his stint was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. He was named as the University of the Philippines coach last year but only ended up with a 1-13 record.

“I’m blessed and thankful that I was given the opportunity by coach Ian, coach Kung Fu and Fr. Rodel [Cansancio, OP]  to return to UST and share my talents with the team,” Delos Santos said.

A big part of Delos Santos’ tasks with the Tigresses is to equip the young middle blockers–Banagua, Plaza, Pia Abbu, and Mae Coronado–with the right tools to fuel the team–which admittedly doesn’t have the tallest roster in the league–after the departure of middle blockers Imee Hernandez and KC Galdones.

READ: Xyza Gula has limelight as UST Tigresses seek to extend eye-popping run in UAAP volleyball

“We really need to work on that. I think there’s no one left from the middle [rotation] from last year but Abbu. Right now we only have rookies along with second and third-year players,” said Delos Santos.

“The level of our middle rotation isn’t that high, but the kids are very eager. They appreciate what we teach them even if we have made things harder for them. They respond to them well.

“You can see that the level of quality is improving, step by step. Hopefully, we make it even better.”

READ: UAAP volleyball: Don’t sleep on these plucky UST Tigresses

Reyes and Delos Santos have been impressed by Poyos–who has been making heads turn so far this season–and other rookies amid the Tigresses’ unbeaten start with the kids showing maturity beyond years at the collegiate level.

“The twist in their performance has been impressive. Coach KungFu was telling us that Poyos and Banagua have always played well, but they lacked grit,” Delos Santos said. “But when they reached the collegiate [level], their mindset changed. We know they will have a great future.”

Coaches’ credentials

Poyos Kungfu Reyes UST Golden Tigresses UAAP volleyball

UST Tigresses’ coach Kungfu Reyes and Angge Poyos and Dedet Pepito in UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball. –MARLO CUETO/

“It’s a give or take [for us coaches and players]. We help them gain experience while they show us their grit and courage every game, which are things we can’t teach.”

And this kind of relationship the UST coaches have built with their players is reaping rewards early in the season, where the Tigresses have sent notice that they are not to be messed with despite their young and relatively smaller line-up.

While part of this is about the performances of the players, Reyes is confident that the other side to his team’s early success is also due to the pedigree of the coaching staff that he had built–all personnel with experience in different kinds of levels of volleyball.

SCHEDULE: UAAP Season 86 volleyball first round

“We have a coaching staff with credibility and credentials, so I told [my players], ‘what else do you need for you to believe [that we can make it?]’ We wanted them to see that having these coaches with reputation is a big deal,” said the UST head coach.

Reyes hopes that the combination of this seasoned coaching crew and a pool of players eager to prove something could help UST Growling Tigresses get over the hump this Season 86 and return to the UAAP Finals again for the first time since 2019.

But when asked what sets this team–this coaching staff–apart that has led to this impressive showing so far, Reyes had a simple answer.

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“Nothing special. We pay attention to our tasks. We give each other respect, and we follow our given tasks to fulfillment,” Reyes said.

TAGS: UAAP Season 86, UST Golden Tigresses

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