KARL Dimaculangan engineered Santo Tomas’ perfect season as the team’s setter and Season Most Valuable Player (MVP) back in 2009 without knowing that he would be in a familiar territory 13 years later.

He may not be the one setting the plays on the court, but Mr. Dimaculangan still served as the same author calling the shots from the sidelines — albeit with a different school — for another season sweep as a head coach this time.

Only in his first year with National University (NU) that was in hunt to end a long women’s volleyball title drought, Mr. Dimaculangan delivered on a promise buoyed by destiny that was 65 years in the making.

“Magkaiba ‘yung pakiramdam. ‘Yung journey going into this championship for NU, mas emotional,” said the former University of the East mentor, who took over the NU volleyball program last year amid the UAAP’s hiatus due to the pandemic.

With Mr. Dimaculangan at helm, the formidable Lady Bulldogs made up of the core from the celebrated NU-Nazareth School junior program wiped out the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 84 with a 16-0 run highlighted by a sweep of La Salle in the finals.

NU followed the steps of La Salle and Ateneo, which also ruled women’s volleyball via perfect seasons in 2004 and 2015, respectively.

The Lady Bulldogs also dominated the individual awards, winning seven out of nine citations led by Mhicaela Belen as the first Rookie of the Year and MVP in UAAP women’s volleyball history.

Ms. Belen likewise copped the Best Outside Hitter plum for a historic hat trick as Alyssa Solomon (Best Opposite Spiker), Jennifer Nierva (Best Libero), Camilla Lamina (Best Setter), and Sheena Toring (Second Best Middle Blocker) had their shares.

Team captain Princess Robles took home the Finals MVP plum to put the icing on the cake for NU’s total dominance with only five set losses in 16 matches this season.

And while destiny finally smiled on the Lady Bulldogs, it’s also the perseverance and commitment of the entire team that realized their title dream at last for the first time since 1957. — John Bryan Ulanday