By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
NATIONAL University made an auspicious start to its University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 82 volleyball campaign with its women’s and men’s teams hacking out victories in their season debuts on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Lady Bulldogs fashioned out a gutsy five-set win over last year’s losing finalists University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses, 22-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-20 and 15-13., while the NU men were 27-25, 23-25, 25-19 and 27-25 winners over the Tiger Spikers.
The Lady Bulldogs showed no let-up in the last two sets on their way to tallying their first win of the season.
The trio of rookie Margot Mutshima, sophomore Ivy Lacsina and come-backing Risa Sato led the NU women in the win, finishing with 23, 19 and 17 points, respectively.
The two teams fought hard throughout, alternately splitting the first four sets of the match to set up the deciding the frame.
In the fifth set, UST had its early struggles, seeing NU build a 7-2 lead.
But rookie Imee Hernandez and sisters Eya and EJ Laure would tow the Tigresses to a 6-2 run after to come within a point, 9-8.
NU, however, regained its footing with Mutshima and Sato propelling their team to match point, 14-11.
UST still tried to salvage the win, narrowing its deficit to one, 14-13, following a block by Hernandez of Lacsina.
Lacsina though would come back, providing the winning point by hammering down a quick kill to douse any chance of a comeback from the Tigresses.
Eya Laure, last season’s rookie of the year, led UST with 20 points with Hernandez adding 19 in her UAAP debut.
The game marked the return of EJ Laure after sitting out the last two seasons. She had 17 points.
“The players had early jitters and it showed. In the fourth and fifth sets we were able to settle down and play our game and it helped us in winning this game,” said Lady Bulldogs coach Norman Miguel as he talked about their debut outing.
THREE PEAT-SEEKING BULLDOGS
Meanwhile, in the first game of the day, the NU Bulldogs began their quest for a men’s UAAP three-peat with a four-set victory over the UST Growling Tigers.
Nico Almendras came through for the reigning champions with a double-double performance of 20 points and 14 excellent receptions. Former University of the East stalwart Ed Camposano opened up his one-and-done year with NU on a high, scoring 19 markers with four coming from blocks.
NU captain James Natividad supplied 11 points while Joshua Retamar ably distributed the wealth with 21 excellent sets.
Jau Umandal led all scorers with 25 points for UST with Lorenz Señoron and Wewe Medina adding 15 and 14 markers, respectively.
Despite the win, NU coach Dante Alinsunurin reiterated that they are far from the form they want to be in as they continue to fine-tune their attack.
“We’re continuing to integrate our system and we’re still adjusting. We started slow in this game but in the end we picked it up and our defense stepped up,” said Mr. Alinsunurin in the vernacular postgame.
NU returns to action on March 8 against Adamson University at the MOA Arena.