Five Questions To Reflect Upon After A Crucial UAAP Volleyball Weekend

After a set of crucial UAAP volleyball weekend matchups, we now reflect on what’s next for our Final Four contenders. 

Last weekend was one of the most crucial pair of game days in the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball second round of eliminations. For one, the FEU Lady Tamaraws finally got sweet revenge against the UST Golden Tigresses while officially completing the Final Four cast. 

Meanwhile, the NU Lady Bulldogs continue to be in top form as they dispatched the still-shorthanded La Salle Lady Spikers. And while FEU’s win completed the Final Four, NU’s own victory shook the playoff race by inching closer to UST and dropping La Salle to solo third in the standings. 

And if anything, those matchups just gave us more questions than answers. Here are some of those pressing questions following those games.  

A second-round sweep imminent? 
UAAP Volleyball: Vange Alinsug
Vange Alinsug is one of NU’s three go-to offensive threats and took charge against DLSU. (Photo credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

NU is now 5-0 in the second round of the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball eliminations. While they still have two games left, the Lady Bulldogs have undoubtedly been the best squad in the second round. 

After shutting down the UST Golden Tigresses last month, the Lady Bulldogs never turned back. Immediately after came back-to-back blowouts over the Ateneo Blue Eagles, and the UE Lady Warriors.

Most importantly, they were able to conquer the still shorthanded La Salle Lady Spikers last Sunday. Despite an error-filled first set and closely contested second and fourth sets, NU was able to snap their five-game skid against the defending champs. 

Closer than expected, but nonetheless a crucial and momentum-shifting victory for the Lady Bulldogs. As mentioned, this equalizes them with UST at 10-2, and at the same time, it’s always a confidence boost when you take down the defending champs.  

On top of everything, the Lady Bulldogs refuse to be complacent. “Ako personally, hindi pa po ganoon masyado [lumalaki confidence]. May games pa po eh, may next games pa…so lagi lang naman kami one game at a time. Hindi namin iniisip ‘yung future,” said Bella Belen, who tallied 14 attack points against La Salle.

Kung ano ‘yung ngayon, ‘yun po ‘yung iniisip namin. Siguro ‘yung championship, darating samin ‘yan pag nagtrabaho kami. Kasi naniniwala po ako na lahat ng pagod, lahat may kapalit,” Belen added. 

Up next for NU are the now-eliminated Adamson Lady Falcons and fourth-seed FEU Lady Tamaraws. While FEU could prove to be a threat, the Lady Bulldogs have been consistent for most of the second round, making it a must-watch game to cap off eliminations. 

Should NU sweep the second round, they end the Season 86 volleyball eliminations at 12-2. Regardless of any tiebreakers, a 12-2 slate should give them a coveted twice-to-beat advantage. 

How far will FEU’s peak take them?  
UAAP Volleyball: Jean Asis
Jean Asis was clutch for the Lady Tams’ return to the Final Four. (Photo credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

FEU’s five-set win against the Tigresses was a matter of who wanted it more. Of course FEU played their hearts out to return from a 2-1 set deficit, led by Faida Bakanke’s career-high 21 points, and Jean Asis’ 16–three of which came in a pivotal 4-0 swing in the fifth set.  

Besides its Final Four implications, the victory is a testament to FEU’s huge strides in Season 86. After all, UST was the top seed, and it was FEU’s first time since March to face one of the top three squads in the tournament’s second round. 

Napaka-sarap ng feeling kasi syempre ‘yung glory days ng FEU, parang pilit namin binabalik. At ngayon nandito na kami dun sa Final Four nga. Masaya pero hindi pa natatapos trabaho eh, nandito naman kami. Eh ‘di mangarap na kami ng sobra-sobra pa,” FEU head coach Manolo Refugia said. FEU last made the Final Four in UAAP Season 81. 

For Asis, their win shows FEU can indeed go up against their higher-ranked opponents. 

Wala namang imposible sa mga bagay-bagay. Kung na-beat namin ‘yung top one ngayon, why not sa ibang teams? Basta tiyagaan lang at sipagan lang at tiwala sa bawat isa, siguro naman mangyayari ‘yung kung ano dapat mangyari,” she said. 

Given everything, it’s fair to say that FEU is the second-hottest UAAP volleyball team right now. And they can orchestrate one final victory to dictate this season’s Final Four. 

As noted, FEU is set to wrap up eliminations against the NU Lady Bulldogs. Should NU win their Adamson matchup, and FEU pull off the upset, the Lady Bulldogs finish with an 11-3 slate. 

Simply put, FEU can at least jeopardize NU’s twice-to-beat bid. 

Realistic? Probably not. Tangible? Definitely. 

Will Angel take aim again on time? 
UAAP Volleyball: DLSU team
Angel Canino (no. 12) would be a much-needed boost in DLSU’s current stretch. (Photo credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

Understandably, La Salle has looked highly vulnerable in Angel Canino’s absence. This is despite Shevana Laput, Thea Gagate, and Alleiah Malauan stepping up for La Salle after Angel suffered a “cut” on her right arm.

As we previously noted, this forces La Salle to play their crucial NU matchup shorthanded. Their biggest test since being pushed to the limit by also-rans UP and UE. 

To their credit, La Salle had a better-than-expected outing against the Lady Bulldogs last Sunday. However, it’s also hard to discount their horror 16-25 second set, which resulted in 10 unforced errors, and only 11 total attack points. 

Despite the loss though, a silver lining for La Salle is a supposed improvement in Angel’s injury. Notably, her cast was also gone, and there were only bandages left for the supposedly injured arm. 

Based on past interviews, and a simple eye test, it’s clear that Angel’s on-court leadership is integral to the defending champs. And if Sunday was a promising sign, La Salle might just be able to regroup on time for their twice-to-beat bid.

La Salle is set to take on the Adamson Lady Falcons next on Wednesday. After that are a pair of games against UST and Ateneo. 

The UST game, in particular, will be crucial for La Salle. Should they win over Adamson and Ateneo, a win against UST will secure DLSU’s twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four. 

Can UST (somehow) overcome their youth?  
UAAP Volleyball: Angge Poyos
Talent is not an issue in UST’s team, but rather their young ages. (Photo credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

Watching UST’s high-stakes matchup already shows the team’s offensive errors–ranging from outside spikes to occasional service errors–alongside their defensive struggles. Defensively, it was a common sight for FEU to find and poke holes in the Tigresses’ side of the taraflex.

By the numbers, UST committed a total of 36 unforced errors, as opposed to FEU’s 27.

But struggling in a high-pressure environment is understandable for the Tigresses. After all, they’re one of the youngest teams in Season 86 UAAP volleyball, with team captain and third-year Golden Tigress Bernadette Pepito being their oldest player. 

Nobody understands this better than UST’s head coach Kung Fu Reyes. If anything, he considers this game in particular as a “learning” experience, instead of a loss. At the end of the day, his Tigresses still have their takeaways from the matchup. 

Tingin ka lang sa harapan mo, then move forward. Accepted naman ‘yung talo, talagang ine-embrace namin ‘to na kailangan pa namin mag-push pa. Improve pa, more experience pa para dun sa mga young guns namin na syempre hindi naman namin pwede ipako sa krus ‘yan dahil natalo,” Reyes said following the loss. 

“Part pa rin ng process ‘to bilang isang no expectation [mag Final Four] hanggang sa nagkaroon. Diba? ‘Yun ang magandang babaunin namin this time,” he added. 

There’s no doubt that UST is one of the most stacked UAAP volleyball teams right now. However, even past matchups have shown their youth–from mid-set collapses, or teams slowly catching up in easily winnable games. This means that when compared to a healthy La Salle, or peak NU, the Tigresses may look the most unstable. 

And as they gun for a twice-to-beat advantage, the Tigresses need to compose themselves just a little bit better for high-stakes games. All the more now that one loss can knock them into the third seed for the Final Four. 

Like La Salle, the Tigresses are looking forward to their April 27 matchup. Should everything go down the wire, this may serve as the decider for a twice-to-beat bid for the top three. 

How or when will the top three be decided?  
As it stands, UST should still be holding the top seed. (Photo credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

As it stands, the top three teams are all in contention for a twice-to-beat advantage. Barring any upset, NU, UST, and La Salle should enter their final elimination games with identical 11-2 records. Of course, fate is now in their hands–NU to beat FEU, and UST and La Salle to escape each other. 

Anything can still happen. FEU may upset NU, while nothing is set in stone for UST and La Salle until the next development in Angel Canino’s arm. 

If they continue to be shorthanded, La Salle remains vulnerable against Adamson or Ateneo. The Blue Eagles in particular are committed to finishing as the fifth seed per head coach Sergio Veloso. 

But ultimately, we just have to wait until the season’s end to confirm our predictions.

Banner Image courtesy of the UAAP Season 86 Media Team.

Last Push: The Closing Stretch For The Potential UAAP Season 86 Volleyball Final Four

From Ms. Happy-Go-Lucky to Ms. Volleyball: Tots Carlos Has Come a Long Way 

The Grind Continues: How UAAP Volleyball Unfolded After A Week-Long Break