THE young University of Santo Tomas team is expected to come of age fast against tough competition in the Shakey’s V-League Reinforced Conference.
UST decided against tapping foreign players to beef up the team in the import-laden tournament to test which among the current pool will qualify in the 14-woman lineup for the coming UAAP Season 79 women’s volleyball tournament early next year.
The players, led by returning skipper Pam Lastimosa, who recovered from ACL injury, are going to fight for roster slots in the UAAP. Incoming third year spikers Sisi Rondina and EJ Laure, middle blockers Ria Meneses and Chloe Cortez, setter Alex Cabanos, Rica Rivera, Renalyn Hachero, Caitlin Viray, Carla Sandoval, Alina Bicar, Mary Pacres, Cabanos, Patricia Rasmos, Christine Francisco and Shannen Palec round up UST’s lineup for the V-League.
“‘Yung sa team kasi namin, kailangan namin ng more on games talaga eh. Pero hindi kami pumasok dito para lang sa experience sa game or kung anuman,” said UST assistant coach Ian Fernandez during the press launch of the conference on Friday.
“Syempre ang aim din namin dito ay siyempre manalo and ‘yun nga para maka-gain ng experience (para sa UAAP),” he added. “Pipili kami rito kung sino ‘yung mga pupuwedeng mag-fit in sa 14-woman lineup sa UAAP at kung sino ang ibaba rin.”
Despite a five-game losing streak to close a hot 2-0 start in the Collegiate Conference, Fernandez, a deputy to Kungfu Reyes, sees a silver lining with Lastimosa back with the team after missing the entire UAAP Season 78.
“Actually na miss namin kay Pam ‘yung leadership niya eh. Noong nawala si Pam, hindi ko naman sa sinasabi na walang leadership ‘yung pumalit sa kanya na si EJ (Laure) pero siyempre mas beterano si Pam eh, alam naman natin ‘yun eh,” said Fernandez.
“Pero ngayon, mas alam na niya ang sakit ng team kasi naging captain ball na siya dati so ngayon medyo kontrolado na niya ang mga players and ‘yung team alam na niya kung paano paandarin,” he added.
Meanwhile, four Tigresses will also see action in the Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix, which kicks off on October 8. Rondina and Laure are with Foton, while Meneses and Cortez are with Generika. The players, though, will put UST first in case of a conflict in schedule happens.
“Ang napag-usapan kasi ng athletics office if there is conflict sa schedule, dito sila sa mother team (maglalaro) kasi in preparation na rin sa UAAP and sa UniGames na rin,” said Fernandez.
UST will start its campaign against fellow all-Filipino team Philippine Air Force on Saturday at 6:00 p.m.