Key losses: Sarina Faith Bulan, Francislyn Cais
Key additions: Judith Abil, Kathlyn Arado, Liza Bendong, Zilfa Olarve, Donna Mae Nebria, Francis Vicente (coach)
Key holdovers/ returnees: Abegail Ponon, Shaya Adorador, Leuseht Dawis
Main goal: Improve two notches higher in the ranking than last year
Last year’s finish: Eighth
Pre-season tournaments joined: None
A NEW coach gives new hope for a University of the East team that has no way to go but up.
With Francis Vicente now calling the shots, the Lady Warriors hope to at least barge into the winning column in Season 77 of the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament.
Before taking over UE, Vicente led National University to its first Final Four appearance in 2013 and steered the University of Santo Tomas girls’ team to a three straight titles in 2008-2010 with Alyssa Valdez as his ace player.
Vicente was also the head coach of the men's national team that placed seventh in the 2014 Asian Men's Club Championship held in Manila.
But the national coach inherits a perennial collegiate cellar-dweller that never tasted victory in the last two seasons, having lost 28 matches. Vicente replaces Boy Dalistan.
While he is eager to turn the program round, Vicente is tempering expectations, aiming for just a two-rank jump from the bottom.
“Itaas naman natin ang rank, but humbly speaking mahihirapan kasi kahit sabihin na nating maganda ang training mo, the team is young composed of freshmen and sophomores, so we cannot say kaagad na panalo na.”
Since taking over last May, Vicente spearheaded a massive offseason recruitment that saw the Lady Warriors nab Palarong Pambansa standouts Judith Abil, Kathleen Arado, Laizah Bendong, Zilfa Olarve and Donna Mae Nebria.
Vicente dubbed Arada, the 5-foot-4 libero from Iligan as the next Jen Reyes, the National University star and many-time league best receiver and best digger. Reyes was also once under the mentorship of Vicente when he was the head coach of the Lady Bulldogs.
“The libero (Arado) will contribute very big kasi what we can see every time we have practices magaling, magaling masyado, parang nakikita mo ’yung Jen Reyes the second,” Vicente said.
Vicente also expects significant help from Abil, a 5-foot-6 native of Iligan who the coach describes as a do-it-all spiker, while Bendong is expected to be UE’s alternate setter behind veteran starter Abegail Ponon.
The 5-foot-9 Olarve and 5-foot-4 Nebria, a duo from the Bicol region, can add depth to the outside spiker and libero positions, respectively, of the Lady Warriors, who welcomes back former star Leuseht Dawis in the fold.