[Here is the first installment of our eight-part preview on the coming UAAP women's volleyball season]
ADAMSON is looking to make a big jump to the Final Four this year.
And the changes start from within.
American spiker Airess Padda heads a revamped coaching staff whose first mission is to instill a self-belief in a Lady Falcons side that finished barely out of the cellar in last season's UAAP women's volleyball tournament.
Together with assistants Michele Gumabao, Cherry Macatangay and Angge Tabaquero, Padda aims to bring stability to a Lady Falcons squad rocked by the departure of head coach Sherwin Meneses midway through last season before limping home under interim coach Domeng Custodio, who also handles the men’s team.
The Lady Falcons wound up second to last in a field of eight - the launching point, Padda hopes, for a renaissance that they hope would lead to a return to the Final Four.
But first things first, the players must believe it can be done.
“Because as an athlete, if you don’t believe you’re capable of accomplishing something, you won’t, no matter how good you are,” said Padda, the founder and director of Malibu Palms Volleyball Club in the United States.
“I think showing them that they are good and that they can be good and they can compete with a lot of the teams in the UAAP, I know we are good to be in the Final Four, they have to believe it,” she added.
Padda and the Lady Falcons, however, have their work cut out for them as half of last season’s starting six — Fenela Emnas, Mylene Paat and Erika Alkuino — have already graduated.
For Adamson to surpass expectations, holdovers Gema Galanza, Bernadette Flora and Mary Joy Dacoron must take the lead while letting the youngsters find their feet in Padda's system.
Padda is pleased to have champion players like Gumabao and Tabaquero by her side in a bid to achieve the goal for Adamson, which last reached the Final Four three years ago with a team led by Bang Pineda.
The Lady Falcons have never won a UAAP championship, coming closest with runner-up finishes in 2005 and 2008.
“It helps our coaching staff tremendously and our team because one a lot of the girls look up to them, they’re like their role models and they hope one they can achieve what they have done,” said Padda.
“Michelle’s very vocal, she’s the youngest of the coaching staff so she has the most spunk, while Angge, she’s an open hitter so she has a lot of knowledge in the game as a player, and when she speaks the girls just soak it all up because she’s one of the best open hitters for UST,” she added.
“It’s been a really positive experience having them."