[Second of an eight-part series]
Key losses: Gyzelle Sy, Marie Toni Basas
Key additions: Toni Rose Basas, Jerrilli Malabanan, Healther Guinoo
Key holdovers: Bernadette Pons, Remy Palma, Geneveve Casugod, Tin Agno, Yna Papa
Main goal: Final Four
Last year’s finish: Fifth
Preseason tournaments joined: Shakey’s V-League First Conference (March 23- May 25)
IT may have won a major tournament in the offseason, but Far Eastern University is setting the bar lower in Season 77 of the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament.
Coming off a Shakey’s V-League First Conference championship conquest earlier this year, the Lady Tamaraws say they will be satisfied with a Final Four finish in the country’s premier collegiate league.
That’s because FEU had former Lady Tamaraws star Rachel Anne Daquis and Central Philippine University’s Jovelyn Gonzaga, both now Philippine Army mainstays, as guest players to lead their title campaign in the V-League.
With FEU regulars led by hard-hitting Bernadette Pons, twin towers Remy Palma and Geneveve Casugod, libero Tin Agno and setter Yna Papa back at the forefront, Lady Tamaraws coach Shaq delos Santos is aiming to book a return to the semifinals after a two-year absence.
“No. 1 target namin Final Four,” said the former University of Santo Tomas champion mentor, who has yet to bring UAAP success to the Morayta-based school. “Kung talagang ibibigay ni God ang iba pa much better.”
FEU still owns the most number of women’s titles with 29 - 15 more than closest pursuer University of Santo Tomas, although its last championship came in 2008.
“Sa coaching staff, ang tiwala namin sa lahat, binibigay din namin tiwala namin sa rookies at kung sino pang part ng nasa lineup,” said Delos Santos, who expects Toni Rose Basas, Jerrilli Malabanan, and Healther Guinoo to beef up the already intact lineup after providing significant contributions for FEU in the V-League.
The 5-foot-9 Basas, younger sister of former FEU player Marie Toni and elevated from FEU Diliman, can play either the middle or outside hitter positions.
Filipino-American Jerrilli Malabanan, who served a one-year residency with the Lady Tams, is also versatile enough to play the middle and outside hitter positions at 5-10.
Heather Guinoo, who stands 5-7, is an Imus Institute product who can also provide power hits for FEU.
Despite a promising roster, De los Santos still is wary of the top teams especially defending champion Ateneo, powerhouse La Salle, National U, University of Santo Tomas and Adamson.
The FEU mentor also does not discount University of the Philippines and University of the East as contenders. UP and UE finished seventh and eighth, respectively, last year, but UP defeated FEU in the second round of the eliminations.
“Contender ang defending champion Ateneo, nandyan pa ang La Salle, UST, Adamson, NU,” he said.
“Ang UP tinalo kami last year, ang UE nagpalakas din. Paghahandaan namin ang lahat kasi depende pa rin sa igagalaw ng kalaban pag nakundisyon ‘yan di mo pa rin masabi.”
FEU’s first assignment will be University of the Philippines on November 23.