UAAP: NU men’s, women’s teams want crowns headed their way
GOING TO THE DOGS?

UAAP: NU men’s and women’s teams want crowns headed their way

The NU men’s team is looking to extend its dominance. —PHOTOS BY UAAP MEDIA

The NU men’s team is looking to extend its dominance. —PHOTO BY UAAP MEDIA

There was no sign of hesitation on coach Dante Alinsunurin’s part when he spoke of his team’s intentions in the UAAP Season 86 volleyball tournament.

“We are focused on our goal to dominate volleyball here in the UAAP,” Alinsunurin said.

He was speaking about the National University (NU) Bulldogs, who are looking to annex a fourth straight men’s crown on Wednesday.

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But he might have been referring to the Lady Bulldogs as well.

UAAP SCHEDULE: Season 86 volleyball Finals UST vs NU

National U watched both its volleyball teams move to within a win of their respective crowns after dominating performances on Saturday, when title challenger University of Santo Tomas (UST) failed to win a single set in either the men’s or women’s Finals.

And the Lady Bulldogs are taking an approach like they lost Game 1 of the best-of-three series as they ready themselves for the Tigresses’ response in Game 2 at Mall of Asia Arena.

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“We need to have a mindset that we’ll finish it in Game 2 like it’s a do-or-die game,” said Bella Belen, the star hitter of the Lady Bulldogs. “We shouldn’t let it reach a [Game 3]. We shouldn’t look [to make things more difficult for us].”

READ: NU sinks fangs into UST squads to close in on UAAP volleyball crowns

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Belen is also battling Santo Tomas rookie Angge Poyos for the Most Valuable Player award in a tight race whose winner will be announced at 1 p.m., before the games get going. NU and UST battle in the men’s side at 2 p.m., while the Lady Bulldogs and the Tigresses square off at around 4.

The goal for Game 2 is simple for the Lady Bulldogs, who are targeting their second crown in three years.

NU Lady Bulldogs' Bella Belen in the UAAP Season 86 women's volleyball tournament Finals Game 1 against UST Tigresses

NU Lady Bulldogs’ Bella Belen in the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament Finals Game 1 against UST Tigresses. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

“We’re hoping that our next game will be our last,” Sheena Toring, NU’s ace middle blocker, said.

The Bulldogs are looking to do the same.

“[Our Game 1 performance] is what I’ve been waiting for, when everything came together,” Alinsunurin said. “In terms of skills, floor defense, attacks, blocks. Everything was there [in Game 1].

“I hope the situation will be the same in Game 2.”

READ: UAAP: Bella Belen praises NU crowd inside ‘QPav-like’ Araneta

The Lady Bulldogs will enter the game with more than just momentum behind them. The Tigresses remain uncertain about Poyos’ availability after the leading Rookie of the Year candidate rolled her ankle in Game 1.

The good news for coach KungFu Reyes, however, is he still has a lifeline to call in the left-handed duo of Jonna Perdido and Regina Jurado.

Perdido has shown how lethal she is when it matters most for UST and has stepped up in all of their matchups against former defending champion La Salle. It was Perdido who provided the offense for UST when Poyos was helped off the court in Game 1, leading the Tigresses with 17 points.

“It doesn’t mean that [just because] Angge will not be with us, we will no longer have a chance to win,” Perdido said.

“Many of us can step up and I know for myself that we always bounce back,” she added. “If we use Angge as our motivation, we will fight it out.”

UST has always shown its depth this season, with the likes of middle blockers Em Banagua and Mae Coronado as well as small dynamic hitter Xyza Gula capable of crucial production under the astute playmaking of Cassie Carballo.

In fact, Poyos’ injury or UST’s depth was never a problem in Game 1.

“The Tigresses’ first enemy was themselves,” Reyes said. “Skills-wise, our learnings and experience that brought us here to the Finals somehow vanished so our players were stiff.”

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“We need to bring back the young ones’ groove and timing,” he added. “We need to maximize our character of fighting until the end. We shouldn’t dwell on our loss but rather we should find a way to bounce back because we know the capability of the team. We never lose hope.”

TAGS: Sports, UAAP, Volleyball

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