[Editor's note: This is the first of our eight-part preview of the coming UAAP Season 82 women's volleyball tournament]
Last Season: 7th Place (3-11)
Key Holdovers: Mean Mendrez, Seth Rodriguez, Zilfa Olarve, Yeye Gabarda, Jasckin Babol
Departures: Kath Arado, Judith Abil, Roselle Baliton, Laizah Bendong, Jasmine Alcayde
Head Coach: Rey Karl Dimaculangan (2nd season)
RISING from the ashes would be a tall order for University of the East as it begins life without multi-awarded libero Kath Arado and several key players in the UAAP Season 82 women’s volleyball tournament, which fires off on February 15.
The Lady Red Warriors showed their vast improvement last year by putting up gallant stand in every match, although they ended up at seventh place, winning three of all their 14 games.
But how will they keep their continuous improvement this year without Best Libero Arado, Best Setter Laizah Bendong, do-it-all spiker Judith Abil and skipper Roselle Baliton?
That is the biggest challenge for UE head coach Karl Dimaculangan in his second season with the Recto-based spikers.
“Maraming nawala. Ngayon mas mahirap, mas mabigat para sa amin,” said the youthful coach of UE.
Reaching the Final Four would be a tall mountain to scale for the rebuilding Lady Warriors but Dimaculangan encourages his wards to at least try since they still have experienced players like team captain Mean Mendrez, Seth Rodriguez, Zilfa Olarve and Yeye Gabarda, who gained experience by playing for club teams.
“Siguro lahat nung senior players lalo na yung gagraduate sila yung ineexpect ko na magstep up,” he said. “Target namin yung Final Four, hindi naman siguro masama pero try namin na makipagcompete talaga. Ayun naman yung palagi kong sinasabi sa kanila makipag compete talaga kami. Kung last season marami kaming five sets na hindi kami nanalo siguro this time kakayanin na namin.”
Rodriguez is hungry for a fitting swan song like fellow senior Mendrez and she promised to carry the team this year — it may not be a huge leap but at least an improvement from their past record.
“Nagstart kami ni Mean from 0-14 tas nagkaroon ng one win, two wins tas last year three wins. Siguro ngayon yung legacy bukod sa Final Four maiangat pa namin yung wins namin,” she said.
Besides the senior players, Dimaculangan is also building a new culture for UE’s future with sophomore libero Jasckin Babol filling in the big shoes of Arado, and rookie setter Jel Quizon taking the role of Bendong.
“Para sa akin sinasanay ko na rin yung sarili ko sa trainings pa lang, sa mga pinapagawa ni coach na drill. Isinasaisip at isinasapuso namin lahat ng sinasabi niya,” Babol said. “Yung pressure nandyan lagi yan pero nasa sayp yan kung paano mo ihandle yun.”
UE’s current crop may not be as talented like the other teams but Dimaculangan warns not to count them out this season as hard work beats talent.
“Basta tumodo lang sila sa ensayo kahit siguro mahirapan sila naniniwala naman ako na may pagbubunga yung paghihirap namin,” Dimaculangan said.