Belen, Pepito take friendship to next level with UAAP Finals duel

Belen, Pepito take friendship to next level with UAAP Finals duel

/ 09:49 PM May 09, 2024

Bella Belen and Detdet Pepito –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

FILE–NU Lady Bulldogs’ Bella Belen and UST Tigesses’ Detdet Pepito will face each other in the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball Finals. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — Bella Belen’s friendship with Detdet Pepito has come a long way as the childhood friends realize their dream UAAP Finals duel when the National University and University of Santo Tomas clash for the Season 86 women’s volleyball supremacy starting on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Belen and Pepito’s friendship started when they were teammates at Lucas R. Pascual Memorial Elementary School in Baesa, Quezon City. They competed in several competitions and built a friendship that has lasted through time.

They chose different paths in high school with Belen joining Nazareth School and Pepito studying at UST as they met in the UAAP girls’ division Finals thrice with the Lady Bullpups winning titles.

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UAAP SCHEDULE: Season 86 volleyball Finals UST vs NU

Their strong bond remained unbreakable even though they went up against each other on several occasions.

“I’m very happy. We were teammates in elementary and we faced off each other in highschool and now we’re facing each other again in the Finals,” Belen told reporters after overcoming Far Eastern University in the Final Four to book their third straight trip to the Finals.

“Our old coach watched the game early, and I hope we made him proud that we’re here right now in the UAAP and two of his former players are in the finals,” she added.

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Leading NU to its third Finals, Belen hopes to bring back the championship glory they lost to La Salle last year against returning finalist UST, which ended the defending champion’s reign to come back to the biggest stage for the first time in five years.

READ: NU, UST forge Finals duels in UAAP men’s, women’s volleyball

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Pepito, the libero captain of the Tigresses’ post-Eya Laure era, is looking to finish their story as champions after pulling off the biggest surprise of the season through their heart-over-height mentality. “I’m happy that I’m facing Detdet in the Finals. So Det,  pasok ka bakla. Eto na ’to, Det. Magpahinga ka,” said the Season 84 rookie MVP with laughter.

The childhood friends may be going against each other but their friendship will always prevail.

READ: UAAP: Bella Belen challenges NU to ‘stay hungry’ amid streak

“Were the kind of people who can go away not talking for months but remaining close. That happened in the past especially in the pandemic, but our closeness never goes away,” Belen said.

National U’s do-it-all spiker is thrilled to face UST for the first time in the women’s division.

“Majority of UST players are our friends. They’re fierce competitors, you can always see how hungry they are to win,” said Belen.

“But we won’t baby this game. We’ll give our 100% effort to take the fight to them because we know they won’t give up.”

Both NU and UST finished the elimination round with identical 12-2 records but the former needed to beat No.4 FEU’s tough challenge after getting swept in their first Final Four match through Belen’s 21-point explosion including five aces in their do-or-die game to reach the Season 86 finals.

Not focused on redemption

Bella Belen Alyssa Solomon NU Lady Bulldogs UAAP Season 86 women's volleyball Finals

NU Lady Bulldogs are aheaded to the the UAAP women’s volleyball Finals anew. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

The Tigresses and Lady Bulldogs split their elimination round games with UST sweeping NU to kick off its season but the latter bounced back and ended the former’s eight-game unbeaten run en route to a second-round sweep to clinch the top seed.

NU is a series away from completing its title redemption tour but Belen stressed that they already put away vengeance out of their minds, choosing to focus on the things they have to work on this season to help them regain the championship.

“We’ve already forgotten about the redemption part. We’re focusing on the work. We need to work hard and we’ll get that redemption,” Belen said.

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“Even though we have losses this season, that’s what made us strong as a team. That really challenged into sticking as one.”

TAGS: NU Lady Bulldogs, UAAP Season 86, UST Tigresses

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