Key losses: Princess Se, Julie Calugcug, Pam Legaspi
Key additions: Jewel Lai, Arielle Estranero, Caryl Sandoval
Holdovers: Angeli Araneta, Arylle Magtalas, Kathy Bersola, Princess Gaiser, Nicole Tiamzon
Preseason tournaments joined: Philippine Volleyball Federation Intercollegiate Championship, Founder’s Cup, Ateneo Open, Shakey’s V-League First Conference
THEY say if you’re dream doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough.
University of the Philippines is indeed dreaming big.
Underachieving the last decade, the Lady Maroons gave themselves a daunting task of no less than a Final Four appearance in Season 77 of the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament that unfurls on November 22 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Lady Maroons, who last made the Final Four in 2004, believe they are ripe to make jump this time after going winless in 2012, notching two wins in 2013, before winning three games last season.
Still, it’s going to be a high jump after finishing second to last in Season 76.
But they feel they have the pieces to contend for a semifinal berth.
Already parading an intact lineup led by veterans Angeli Araneta, Arylle Magtalas, Season 76 Best Blocker Kathy Bersola, pint-sized libero Princess Gaiser and skipper Nicole Tiamzon, the Lady Maroons got an added boost from rookies Jewel Lai, Arielle Estranero, Caryl Sandoval.
“Expectations namin na makapasok ng Final Four,” Tiamzon said. “Nag work hard kami, nag training naman kami, si Ate Neta (Araneta) maglalaro pa so solid pa rin kami this season. ‘Yung pagiging veretan niya makakatulong talaga this season.”
Lai, a 5-foot-2 rookie setter out of Hope Christian High School, is expected to start right away after being named Best Setter in last year’s Palarong Pambansa and having been exposed in the preseason tournaments.
Projected to back Gaiser up is Estranero, a 5-foot-4 libero and University of St. La Salle product who was not just a recipient of a Best Receiver award but also a many-time Best Attacker awardee in Western Visayas leagues.
Angelicum College alum Sandoval, who plays the outside hitter position at 5’8”, is also touted to do damage for UP with her power hits and make her presence felt at the net with her solid blocks.
“I expect na makakatulong ng sobra ang rookies,” Tiamzon said. “Mabilis silang nakaka-adapt sa system and nakasama na namin sila sa mga pre-season tournaments na sinalihan namin and okay naman sila.”
The third-year outside hitter likewise sees their cohesion as an advantage for them to reach their lofty goal.
“Mas naging mature kami this season kasi ang tagal na namin magkakasama so tingin ko may experience na rin kami sa UAAP,” Tiamzon said, although adding they need to focus on their mental toughness and consistency during games.
UP’s first assignment is Far Eastern University on November 23.