UNIVERSITY of the Philippines just turned itself into a heavy favorite to win the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament next year after ruling the collegiate conferences of Philippine Superliga and Premier Volleyball League.
But winning two major volleyball titles in the preseason means a lot of pressure for UP head coach Godfrey Okumu and the Lady Maroons come their real fight in the UAAP.
“It means a lot of pressure. For them and for me. That's what it means,” said Okumu after steering the school its second major volleyball tournament title as inaugural champion in the PSL Collegiate Grand Slam.
“We had a trophy, and this is the second one. It's just a big pressure, and just hoping for the best,” he added.
Conference and Finals Most Valuable Player Isa Molde powered the Lady Maroons to end the 36-year title drought of the school in a major volleyball tournament as they swept the championship series against FEU Lady Tamaraws to rule the PVL Collegiate Conference last September.
It was Tots Carlos, who missed the PVL due to a stress fracture on her shin, turn to deliver a championship in the PSL Collegiate Grand Slam as the inaugural Conference MVP unleashed 17 points to lead the Lady Maroons in outlasting the UST Tigresses, 25-21, 16-25, 25-23, 25-19, in the winner-take-all final on Thursday at the Arena in San Juan.
But for Okumu, UAAP will be a different game as they only played three teams each in both tournaments, taking on Adamson, FEU and UST in the PVL and the Lady Tamaraws and Tigresses again in the PSL together with UE Lady Red Warriors.
“UAAP is another game altogether. We only played against three of the other teams. So, I don't wanna judge ourselves before playing against everybody else,” Okumu said. “We want to go out there and win the UAAP, but we have to tread carefully. We have to be polite as we move on, train and work hard because it's a really big challenge for us”
“We wouldn't like to play so well in the offseason, and when the real tournament comes up, we don't perform,” he added. “So I believe, it puts us in a very tight situation, but the fight is there. So we're gonna fight until the end.”
But the good thing in their preseason, the Kenyan coach was able to utilize all of his rookies dividing the pool of newbies for the two leagues guided by senior players.
And now Okumu has a very beautiful problem in choosing their Final 14 for UAAP Season 81z
“I've tried all my players in these preseason games. I've played almost 28, at least 25 or 26 players. I've been able to recycle them in all the tournaments we've played,” he said. “It's gonna be hard to choose, so don't ask me my line-up for UAAP, because I don't know. We played well.”
That’s why Okumu is seeking to bring his players on their chosen overseas —using the cash prize they earned from PSL —training in January for UAAP Season 81 to determine the cream of the crop of their roster.
“We have a team of like so many players, and if we're gonna have to train, we're gonna have to train the members of the UAAP,” he said.