Angel Canino wasn’t anticipating anything out of the ordinary in her coming-out party in UAAP women’s volleyball.
But with the rookie leading La Salle to victory by the skin of its teeth, 25-20, 16-25, 25-8, 15-25, 16-14, in a battle of attrition against University of Santo Tomas on Saturday, it simply hinted of magnificent things to come for Canino and the Lady Spikers in Season 85.
“It is my dream to play in the UAAP, at MOA (Mall of Asia), especially in college and now I’m here, and I didn’t expect that this will be the outcome,’’ said Canino after unloading 16 attacks out of her 18 points plus one block and an ace in a startling debut.
And the freshman from Bacolod City foresees that the Lady Spikers can do even better as they go deeper into the tournament.
“I just kept on thinking that the game would be ours. We showed who we are as Lady Spikers and what we are capable of achieving,” Canino continued. “I know that we will jell more as a team.’’
Canino also got a lot of help from Jolina Dela Cruz, Leila Cruz and Thea Gagate in coming out on top of the first five-setter of the season.
For La Salle interim coach Noel Ocullo, however, the breaks just came their way.
“Both teams were capable of winning. It was so intense and it all came down to the breaks of the game. We just got lucky in the end,’’ Ocullo said of his baptism of UAAP fire.
There was also some luck for the Lady Spikers after Tigresses Milena Alessandrini and Eya Laure practically handed them the victory on a platter.
Alessandrini, the former rookie of the year, committed a service error, giving their foes the advantage in the final set, 15-14, before Laure’s power drive went out of bounds to the delight of the jampacked La Salle crowd.
“We will surely gain confidence from this win. But there are a lot of things that we need to adjust in training,’’ said Ocullo.
The Lady Spikers seemed headed for a quick disposal of the Tigresses after seizing the third set in runaway fashion behind the heroics of Cruz, Gagate, Dela Cruz and Canino.
But the Tigresses refused to just roll over with Laure and Alessandrini pulling out a bag of tricks that stunned La Salle in the fourth frame.
Laure had 19 points, highlighted by 17 attacks, that went along with eight digs, while the comebacking Alessandrini, who suffered a knee injury in Season 81, finished with nine kills out of her 10 points.
In the other game, setter Christine Ubaldo led Far Eastern University to a season-opening 25-16, 23-25, 25-17, 26-24 win over University of the Philippines.
Ubaldo tossed 16 excellent sets on top of five points and two blocks, helping her team overcome a late charge by the Lady Maroons that could have forced a five-setter.
“It’s definitely a good start for the team, the program and the community. We struggled in training and past experiences, but we have proven that we can overcome them,’’ said FEU coach Tina Salak, who took over the coaching chores of the school that she once led to back-to-back UAAP titles in the 90s.
Jovelyn Fernandez scored 18 points, 17 of them coming off a variety of kills, while Chenie Tagaod and Alyzza Devosora added 13 and 12 points each for the Lady Tamaraws, who thrived on UP’s clump of errors.
Devosora put FEU within match point with a pair of attacks and UP’s Stephanie Bustrillo sailed her attack long, ending the match that saw Salak in jubilation with the rest of the team.
“I can feel a little bit of pressure playing for her (Salak) because we know that she’s legendary. I’ve been learning a lot from coach Tina and the pressure has been slowly waning off the more time we spend with her,’’ said Ubaldo.
Salak, who captured the MVP during the 1995 UAAP season, was a three-time Southeast Asian Games medalist—a silver medal in the 1995 Chiang Mai SEAG, a bronze in the 1997 Jakarta Games and another third-place finish in the 2005 Manila edition.
“I want them to play the way I did when I was with the (FEU) team before. I want a childlike attitude without being afraid of what other people will say, regardless of the emotions that you show out there,’’ said Salak, who snapped her alma mater’s 11-game losing streak.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.