A new season. A new start. A new set of challenges. NU Lady Bulldogs? Still the same.
National University (NU) opened the UAAP Season 85 volleyball tournament the way the Lady Bulldogs ended the last, with a win that underscored just how prepared the defending champions are to make yet another dominating run.
NU swung the wrecking ball at the Ateneo Blue Eagles, resulting in a 25-15, 25-20, 25-16 demolition on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“This is a new season and it’s a fresh start. We did well in other tournaments, but here in the UAAP, it’s different. We have to prepare hard against every team that we play,” said NU coach Karl Dimaculangan.
Different? Perhaps only in the fact that the Lady Bulldogs look even more rounded this year after easily stretching their unbeaten run to 19 games dating back to the 2020 season.
The old reliables lit it up for the reigning queens. Alyssa Solomon was ruthless in leading a balanced attack with 12 points that included two kill blocks. Princess Robles added seven attacks en route to 11 points while Mhicaela Belen, who won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Rookie of the Year trophies last season, finished with eight points.
“We were able to execute what we have been doing in practice. But it’s going to be a long tournament and we have to keep on improving,” said Solomon, the Shakey’s SuperLeague MVP where NU also had a perfect title run three months back.
Solomon, Belen, Robles and Sheena Toring joined hands with first-time starter Erin Pangilinan in the opening set as NU extricated itself from a tight back-and-forth contest. Protecting a precarious one-point advantage, the Lady Bulldogs suddenly charged ahead with a 10-1 offensive that tore Ateneo apart.
“I am satisfied but at the same time, I won’t be complacent. I’m willing to take another improvement,” Pangilinan said. “I still have to improve my connection with my setter, which is very critical, and my serve.”
Pangilinan is taking over the role of Ivy Lacsina, who turned pro after NU’s title triumph last season.
“I was a bit nervous to start the game because I still don’t know how I would perform with the team,” she said. “But of course, they already have expectations of me. With the help of our experience in Shakey’s and our training, I was able to gel with them and I didn’t have a hard time.”
The Lady Bulldogs were hardly threatened over the next two sets.
“We played well and yet I feel that there are still more things and areas where we should improve,” said Belen.
Adamson made short work of University of the East, 25-19, 25-9, 25-5, during the curtain-raiser.
Lucille Almonte was at the forefront of the Lady Falcons’ merciless onslaught, delivering 12 points on 10 attacks on top of two blocks and eight digs.
“Our game plan was anchored on stopping their two aggressive players and it’s a good thing we were able to adjust quickly,” said Almonte in Filipino.
Adamson thrived under this fresh system under coach Jerry Yee, one that will be tested to the hilt with an early matchup against the Lady Bulldogs on Wednesday.
“Expect this year that we will be more aggressive and hungry to get those victories,” said Almonte.
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