FOR University of the Philippines (UP) head coach Godfrey Okumu, the Lady Maroons could have beaten they Adamson Lady Falcons if they managed to close out their pivotal duel in the Premier Volleyball League Season 2 Collegiate Conference last Sunday at the Arena in San Juan City.
Before losing to Adamson, 22-25, 25-19, 23-25, 24-26, UP Lady Maroons stayed within striking distance of the Lady Falcons in each set, only to surrender the crucial points to their foes.
“As you can see, almost half of my players are just coming in from high school. They're a good group of people,” said Okumu, whose wards outplayed Adamson in spiking (49-47) and in blocking (11-7) only to commit 33 errors in the game. “The only thing we lose ... Remember the first time when we played in UAAP last year? Finishing was a problem.”
“We'd lead and then we get caught. The same thing is happening again. I was trying to explain that to to them that we should have been able to move from that,” he added.
Even Adamson counterpart Air Padda was surprised that her Lady Falcons won over the Lady Maroons, who drew a great performance from setter Ayel Estrañero, pacing 27 excellent sets to her spikers led by Isa Molde and Marian Buitre’s 15 points apiece.
“Honestly, I don’t know how we won because UP was really consistent,” Padda said. “They were hitting hard on us, Estrañero did a very very good job finding her hitters she was moving the ball around and she was setting great like between her Buitre and Molde, they were hitting great.”
Okumu said that if UP star Tots Carlos was playing, she could have delivered the clutch points in the endgame.
“Scoring the late points, I believe, Carlos would have done that with ease. The last-minute balls, Carlos would have made sure it goes. But, we cannot bank and put all our hopes on Carlos,” the Kenyan coach said.
But he insisted that they cannot rely on Carlos right now as she continues to recover from a shin injury, giving the responsibility of stepping up to his current players.
“We have to let her recover and, when she recovers, she has to do some work. She has to train hard and fit with the team now that we have a new crop of players that she has never had a chance to play with,” he said. “It's work on our side as coaches. I believe, with time, the young players will do this team proud.”
Despite falling to a 2-2 win-loss record at fourth spot, Okumu believes that once his combination of rookies and seniors spikers would get their acts together and learn how to close out games, they will be a great team.
“These are crucial mistakes at the last seconds of a match which, if we polish, we'll be a great team. I believe we can polish that,” he said. “It's the finishing part that we need to practice. Hopefully, we find time after this conference. You can see that we are trying to mold together the new and the old players.”
The Lady Maroons try to bounce back against their former coach Jerry Yee and his new team, College of Saint Benilde (1-3), on Wednesday at 4 p.m.