No Slowing Down for UP Following Preseason Triumphs

Including their FilOil Preseason Cup run, the UP Fighting Maroons only view their preseason campaigns as learning experiences for their UAAP redemption tour.

When the 17th FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup kicked off in May, the UP Fighting Maroons were quick to stamp their (continued) excellence. Save for a few gritty matches, State U would go unbeaten in eliminations, eventually setting up a Finals rematch with UAAP kings La Salle.

And on Philippine Independence Day, the Fighting Maroons triumphed over the Green Archers, completing a 20-point turnaround to secure a second-straight FilOil preseason crown. This came after they beat the Taft-based squad by 12 points in their FilOil opener. 

Just like that, UP is now back-to-back FilOil EcoOil Preseason champs, which they accompanied by statement wins over their Season 86 tormentors.

But as expected, they were far from being in a celebratory mood. Understandably, preseason success won’t mean anything if they won’t be UAAP champions five or six months later. 

“This is not really our goal, but I just think that we worked really hard for this. Our goal is the UAAP and not just La Salle, it’s just another game for us,” said Francis Lopez, who earned a Mythical Five nod for the marquee preseason tilt.

“To be honest, nothing really. It’s just a preseason, like I said. There’s nothing else,” Lopez added, in regards to what back-to-back FilOil crowns contribute towards their UAAP Season 87 buildup. 

Team captain Gerry Abadiano offered a different perspective. Despite agreeing with Lopez, the senior acknowledged the team’s learnings from this FilOil campaign, which will aid them once Season 87 starts in September. 

In particular, Abadiano pointed out UP’s in-game consistency. As Lopez described it, they tend to be a “rollercoaster” in this aspect.

Alam namin na kumbaga, ‘yung team namin ‘di pa namin naabot ‘yung potential namin. ‘Yun talaga siguro ‘yung kailangan namin i-improve, ‘yung consistency na ‘yun,” Abadiano said. 

Kasi ayun, ‘yung ganung times na hindi kami consistent. Nalamangan kami nang malaki, what if ‘di kami naka-recover? ‘Yun ‘yung masakit.” 

Job’s not finished, but…

While the UP Fighting Maroons still have a ways to go, their preseason strides didn’t go unacknowledged. In a follow-up chat, Abadiano noted the squad’s improvement on “both ends”, especially on offense. 

‘Yung ball movement namin, laking difference, talagang [mula pa noong] past seasons, and syempre ‘yung depensa rin namin,” Abadiano told The GAME, despite reiterating that they’ve yet to meet their full potential.

There’s also their crop of new recruits, which includes Gilas Youth stalwart Jacob Bayla, and foreign student-athlete Dik Udodo among others. Early on, the captain noticed that their fresh faces were fast learners and great communicators. 

For instance, if they’re lost in coach Gold Monteverde’s system, UP’s new recruits won’t hesitate to ask, Abadiano said. Besides this, there’s also the general willingness to improve, as well as overall enthusiasm in training sessions. 

Chemistry is another strength in this batch. From having no build-up after Covid in 2022, this squad now has a “different bond” according to the captain. 

Kasi dati after pandemic, diretso na agad eh! Parang pandemic tapos hindi pa talaga kami nagsama ng two years, three years. ‘Di tulad ngayon na sila Maimai [Cagulangan], sila Harold nakasama ko na ng three years. ‘Yung mga iba, two years, so parang ‘yung chemistry, bond ng team namin is sobrang iba talaga nung first season na nag-champion kami.” 

Up next for the UP Fighting Maroons are overseas training camps, starting with Serbia from June 13 to 31 and another in Korea per Abadiano. Of course, this would be crucial for the team, especially for their fresh faces. 

And as repeatedly noted, the team is yet to reach its peak. Despite their successful run, Lopez chimed in that UP is “not even at 50 percent” just yet as we speak.

“We have a lot of things to work on — consistency. We’ll see. Like what coach Gold keeps on saying, telling us that don’t be complacent as well. Whatever team you face against, don’t be complacent. That’s what we need to do,” said the Fil-Angolan forward. 

Banner Image from FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup Media Team.

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