UST And NU Finals Matchup: Subtle Links, Visible Contrasts

The Subtle Links in Sampaloc: 5 Storylines Surrounding The UST And NU Finals Matchup  

UST and NU will be facing each other in this season’s UAAP women’s volleyball Finals. While it’s their first in the women’s ranks, they still have a fair number of connections. 

The UAAP Season 86 Women’s Volleyball Finals are now set, with the NU Lady Bulldogs and UST Golden Tigresses looking to be this season’s collegiate volleyball queens. 

For NU, a championship equates to redemption, having been swept by the La Salle Lady Spikers in the UAAP Season 85 Finals. UST, meanwhile, hopes to finally win their first championship in 14 years, and avoid another heartbreak like UAAP Season 81. 

Historically, this is the first-ever UST and NU meeting in the women’s Volleyball Finals, and the Final Four as a whole. Until this season, neither squad has peaked simultaneously to either make the Final Four together or face each other in these rounds. 

Despite that though, there’s a fair share of storylines between the two, from their current cast to overall team history, and even their coaching staff among others. 

So, before the games begin this Saturday, let’s take a look at the storylines surrounding the first-ever UST and NU matchup in the UAAP women’s volleyball Finals.

From Bullpups to Bulldogs, from Junior Tigress (cubs) to Tigresses 
UST NU Finals: NU Big 3
(Photo Credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

Like past seasons, much of NU and UST’s key players come straight from their girls’ volleyball squads. 

For UST, there’s Detdet Pepito, Reg Jurado, and super rookie Angge Poyos to name a few. NU, meanwhile, has their trio of Bella Belen, Aly Solomon, and Vange Alinsug, alongside Lams Lamina and Sheena Toring, among others. 

It’s also been known that UST and NU are rivals in the high school volleyball scene. To recall they faced off in five consecutive girls’ volleyball Finals from UAAP Season 76 to 80, wherein NU-Nazareth completed a “four-peat” at UST’s expense. 

Some of this year’s UST and NU players were also part of those teams, namely Pepito, Jurado, Belen, Solomon, and Toring. Now, they’ll again be competing for UAAP glory, but on the biggest stage this time in the Women’s Volleyball Finals. 

Final Four era emergence vs. resurgence 
UST NU Finals: Detdet
(Photo Credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

This matchup also features an NU program that has proven to be a legitimate contender, and UST, a squad that has reestablished its playoff status in the Final Four era. 

Since their inconsistent playoff appearances between 2013 and 2019, the Lady Bulldogs have established their legitimacy early into the 2020s, with three straight Finals appearances including this season, alongside a highly competitive roster.  

Additionally, NU also enters the Finals no lower than the second seed — a telltale sign of their program’s rise from past struggles. 

The Tigresses, meanwhile, were regular contenders in the Final Four up until 2013, winning two championships in 2007 and 2010. However, they would proceed to miss the Final Four five times between 2013 to 2018 — well below their golden standards.

Since then, UST has recovered from that slump, starting with their Finals appearance in 2019 led by Sisi Rondina and a younger Eya Laure. Since the UAAP’s post-pandemic return, the Tigresses have been regular Final Four contenders, including Season 86, their best eliminations run since UAAP Season 73. 

Now that they’ve avoided another early exit, all that’s left for the Tigresses is to cap off their resurgence with the UAAP crown. 

Bragging rights in Sampaloc
UST NU Finals: Erin Pangilinan
(Photo Credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

For the first time in three seasons, NU’s status as Sampaloc’s best volleyball squad was in jeopardy with FEU forcing a Final Four rubber match. Now, that will be put to the test once more in their final battle with UST.

Typically, UST and FEU would come to mind as Sampaloc best, due to their overall UAAP success. However, given NU’s huge strides over the years, it’s just right to also credit them as a legitimate threat among the four universities based in the area. 

Tigers’ connection of sorts
(Photo Credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

At the helm of UST and NU’s championship hopes are former UST personnel. As a player, UST head coach Kung Fu Reyes is a three-time champion with the Tiger Spikers, while middle blocking coach Shaq delos Santos is the Tigresses’ last title-winning mentor. 

In NU, Lady Bulldogs’ mentor Norman Miguel confirmed that he was a former UST assistant dating back to Augusto Santamaria’s time. Like Reyes, Miguel’s predecessor turned lieutenant Karl Dimaculangan also played for the Tiger Spikers, being the Season and Finals MVP in the 2009 season. 

Can Reyes and his deputies get UST over the hump? Or will Miguel and Dimaculangan steer NU to redemption at the expense of a university they once represented? 

Memories in MOA 
(Photo Credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

Last but not the least, is the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, where Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) of the Finals will be held between UST and NU. 

Both squads will be entering the MOA taraflex with bad memories to forget. While NU won the title there, it was also where La Salle dethroned them with a vengeance in UAAP Season 85 last year. 

It was also in MOA that the Tigresses were unable to overcome the Bea de Leon and Maddie Madayag-led Ateneo Lady Eagles. Two seasons later, they would suffer early exits against Ateneo and La Salle respectively under the leadership of Eya Laure and Imee Hernandez.

Save for Season 81, both UST and NU have remained intact since UAAP Season 84, meaning most if not all of their respective players carry the same heartbreaks. 

And in just a few days’ time, we’ll find out whether it’s the Tigresses or Lady Bulldogs who will lift the UAAP gold and effectively banish the ghosts of their past in Pasay. 

Banner Image courtesy of the UAAP Season 86 Media Team.

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