THE coming UAAP Season 76 Cheerdance Competition should be one of the most exciting in years, with a number of teams capable of winning the title on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Grabe ang laban ngayon. Talagang everybody wants to outperform one another,” said Jacqueline Alota, head coach of the Far Eastern University Tamaraws Pep Squad that finished runner-up last year.
Alota bared that all teams have a good shot at the title, which so far only FEU, UP Maroons and the University of Santo Tomas Tigers have won since the UAAP Cheerdance wars began in 1994.
Lala Perena, coach of three-time champion University of the Philippines, believes the road to an unprecedented ninth cheerdance title won't be easy for the UP Pep Squad.
“Mas iba talaga ang competition ngayon,” said Perena. “Everyone’s upgrading their level. Lahat para sa akin are teams to beat. Everyone’s out to get us. Lahat magpu-push ng best nila.”
Both Perena and Alota look at the National University Bulldogs Pep Squad as one of the top contenders.
The Sampaloc-based NU squad is the most improved team of the competition, moving up from sixth place in 2011 to second runner-up last year.
And just last March, the NU Pep squad dominated the National Cheerleading Championship, even beating FEU in the process.
“Talagang aggressive kasi ngayon ang NU,” said Alota. “They have the budget, they have the money.”
“They recruited top gymnasts from the last two Palarong Pambansa, kaya they have the versatility,” added the FEU coach. “Pero hindi kami papatalo sa kanila.”
Perena, for her part, stressed that a winning routine in the UAAP tournament will go down to performance and execution.
“They may have recruited all the best gymnasts, pero hindi lang naman sa gymnast nagre-rely ang isang piece,” said Perena, whose team skipped the last NCC tourney.
Meanwhile, NU coach Ghicka Bernabe revealed the team's primary goal is to continue improving.
“Wala naman ho kaming pressure, kasi ang amin lang we just want to keep improving. Kung may dapat ma-pressure it should be them. Sila ang laging expected to win eh,” said Bernabe, a former FEU Pep Squad member.