After reclaiming UAAP throne, queens left to ponder what's next

After reclaiming throne, NU queens left to ponder on what’s next

Bella Belen and the NU Lady Bulldogs after winning the UAAP Season 86 women's volleyball championship with a sweep of UST Tigresse

Bella Belen and the NU Lady Bulldogs after winning the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball championship with a sweep of UST Tigresses. -MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

In a span of three years, the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs have been through a lot.

They ended a 65-year title drought by cruising to the UAAP Season 84 women’s volleyball crown in unbeaten fashion, behind the league’s first Rookie-Most Valuable Player, Bella Belen. And just as they were being touted to become the league heavyweights the Lady Bulldogs surrendered their throne to La Salle and another Rookie-MVP in Angel Canino.

They turned Season 86 into a redemption tour, one that started on the wrong foot but ended with a second crown in three seasons after sweeping University of Santo Tomas in the Finals.

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“It wasn’t easy,” coach Norman Miguel said. “When I was asked to come back for this season, I was firm with my decision to return because I knew that I can help to get the title again.”

So the question that followed Game 2’s 25-23, 23-25, 27-25, 25-16 victory over the Tigresses was expected: What’s next.

For Belen and longtime teammate Alyssa Solomon, everything’s still up in the air—even with speculation going around that both players could turn pro.

“I haven’t thought about that yet,” Solomon, the Finals MVP, said. “My focus was on the UAAP only and [I haven’t thought about] the PVL.” Belen gave NU fans reason to hope.

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“It’s possible [that I will return],” the two-time league MVP said. “Who wouldn’t want to be part of a team like this that keeps fighting? NU is about hard work. That’s why I’m happy to be part of the team my whole varsity career.”

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Even their stint as national players isn’t set in stone. The two stars, who were also teamates in NU’s high school program, were tapped to bolster the national squad for the AVC Challenge Cup from May 22 to 29 at Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

“We’re still thinking about the national team,” Solomon said. “[If we join, we’ll be playing] continuously and the body also wants to rest. So we’re not sure of joining yet.” “We’ll see. We’ll report to school and celebrate the championship for a while,” added Belen. “[For] every volleyball player, the ultimate goal is to be part of the national team and compete in international [competitions]. It would make me proud to have other people see how hard I work as part of the national team.”

What’s certain is NU succeeded in its goal of reestablishing itself atop women’s volleyball despite a shaky start to the season.

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The Lady Bulldogs fell right in their opening match against the Tigresses. “A lot of people doubted us after that loss [to UST] and that we can’t reach the Finals,” Belen said.

“We showed as a team to those doubting us returning to the Finals we are still NU and we are still capable; that even though we had losses and a lot doubted us, we are still united and fought together.” NU suffered another early setback when it was dropped to third place in the first round with a loss to La Salle.

That was NU’s last defeat in the preliminaries, as the team swept its remaining assignments to gain the top seed in the Final Four. But even the stint there did not go hassle-free.

A stubborn Far Eastern University squad pulled off a three-set shocker and forced the Lady Bulldogs to scramble for their twice-to-beat incentive. “The good thing is that the character of our players are solid, that when they say they will fight until the end and redeem [themselves by winning] the title, they really mean it,” Miguel said. “That’s why the NU players are really impressive.”

The Lady Bulldogs eventually dismissed the Lady Tamaraws in that do-or-sie encounter, picked up important lessons there and translated them into a two-game sweep of the inexperienced and undersized Tigresses.

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They’re back on top again and everyone is waiting what the team will do for an encore.

TAGS: National University (NU), UAAP Season 86, UST

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