FRUSTRATION does not encapsulate the feeling University of the Philippines after falling to National University in five sets on Wednesday in the UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball tournament.
"To our fans, today was one of those days. We said the same on Sunday when we played against Ateneo, we said the same when we played against UST. This is also not good. It's putting our team in a very, very tight situation," reflected coach Godfrey Okumu.
"What happened today, if I had to describe, we had the fourth set and the fifth set, but that just didn't happen. We just lost it. We spent a lot of energy trying to fight back in every single moment."
The Lady Maroons were holding a two-set lead before the Lady Bulldogs edged them in the fourth set, 25-23, and climbed their way from a 10-14 deficit to take the 17-15 fifth-set victory.
For Okumu, what makes the defeat more frustrating was that a middle-rung team like UP was "supposed to win" the duel against a skidding NU team.
But that wasn't the case, as the Lady Maroons dropped to an even 3-3 card, while improving the Lady Bulldogs up to 2-4.
For the Kenyan mentor, what UP must do is to remind itself how strong it could be, and that starts with patience.
"We're no longer a team in progress. We're a team that is strong and a power to be reckoned with, but things did not go as we had planned," he said.
"It seems like we are too much in a hurry in doing everything. If you watched our game against Ateneo, it is the same thing, we're in a hurry to do everything, we want to pass quickly, we want to spike quickly, we want to move first. But I think and I believe when we learn to become patient again, things will fall back into place. We need to be a little patient with what we are doing. We're in a hurry in doing things and we need to slow down a little bit."
Okumu also said that the players, led by seniors Isa Molde, Tots Carlos, and Ayel Estranero, do feel the pressure of the team underperforming and somehow, aren't taking these struggles lightly.
"The girls, they're talking to each other. We let them discuss, talk to one another, and meditate with what happened. They're not taking it lightly," he said. "It's really a heartbreaking moment and it's hard for them. As a coach, it doesn't matter anymore if I shout or speak slowly: people will still listen and will hear you."
But he himself said that the coaching staff are doing everything they can to uplift the spirits of the Lady Maroons as they know that these three will be the ones they will count on in their quest to make it to the Final Four.
"We just asked them to be strong and to have heart. That's the most important thing because there's nothing different, it's the same volleyball," he said.
"The idea that we won a championship without Isa and we won another championship without Tots, bringing them together will be the best thing that can happen to a team like our team, but it seems like we're still struggling. As I've said before, winning a championship isn't easy. Sometimes you need to lose in order for you to win. We're still gonna bounce back and we're going to fight back."
And Okumu hopes that these changes will be felt starting this Sunday, when UP closes out its first round schedule against Adamson.
"We just have to continue encouraging them, go back to the drawing board, and see where we went wrong, and correct and make things right," he said. "I hope that come the weekend, we'll be able to adjust and play better."