Belen Bella Belen hopes to bring back NU on top of the UAAP women’s volleyball throne. UAAP photo

NU eyes golden double

May 15, 2024 Theodore P. Jurado 85 views

NATIONAL University seeks to become the first school to complete a golden double in nine years as it tries to close out the UAAP women’s and men’s volleyball Finals series against University of Santo Tomas today at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Ateneo was the last school to sweep the volleyball titles in 2015, when Alyssa Valdez’s squad went 16-0 in that season while Marck Espejo gave the Katipunan-based side a breakthrough men’s championship.

Whether the Lady Bulldogs’ redemption tour will end has remains to be seen, as the Tigresses hope to muster enough energy to rebound with all the uncertainty regarding super rookie Angge Poyos’ Game 2 status at 4 p.m.

After ending a 65-year championship drought in the women’s division in 2022, NU was swept in the Finals to La Salle last year.

As Season 84 Rookie-MVP Bella Belen and company went back to the drawing board in the past few days to correct whatever lapses they committed in the opener, the Lady Bulldogs are determined to avoid playing Game 3 in the Finals for the first time.

“Tignan namin kung ano ang pangit naming nagawa na puwede naming ibahin para mas lalo naming mapadali ang game sa Wednesday,” said Belen, who logged 13 kills, eight digs and six receptions in a 25-23, 25-20, 25-20 victory.

Poyos went down with a right ankle injury in the Finals opener after stepping on teammate Em Banagua’s foot upon landing in the second set with UST and NU level at 11-11.

Poyos, the second-leading scorer in the eliminations, never returned in the match. She finished with seven points and eight digs.

The 5-foot-8 open spiker had to be helped out of the playing court and later was seen wearing a walking boot.

Poyos’ injury gave the Tigresses war flashbacks five years ago in their championship series against the Blue Eagles when Eya Laure suffered a sprained ankle in Game 2.

“Part yun ng laro na, unfortunately, naka apak ng kasama. Medyo unusual, pero andiyan na, so moving forward, kailangan lang naming may mag step-up,” said Reyes.

“Kung ma-miss out niya yun, sayang yung experience itself. So hopefully, maging motivation yun sa kanila na mag-step up hindi lang isang tao, kundi yung grupo.”

“Yun ang isang bilin namin sa kanila. Hindi namin hinihingi yung output ni Angge sa isang tao. Kailangan talaga nilang mag tulungan. Andiyan pa rin Xzya [Gula], si Reg [Jurado], so depende na lang sa magiging takbo ng ensayo namin,” he continued.

It was Jonna Perdido who carried the fight with 17 points, while Jurado was the other double-digit scorer with 10 points.

NU shoots for a men’s four-peat against UST in the 2 p.m. curtain raiser.

Behind Buds Buddin, the Bulldogs moved closer in securing a sixth championship overall, and coach Dante Alinsunurin’s fifth UAAP title, after sweeping the Golden Spikers, 25-17, 26-24, 25-19 last Saturday.

The Lady Bulldogs’ championship experience will come to handy just like in Game 1.

“Hindi na iba sa kanila ang umabot sa Finals. So they know how it feels. And alam nila kung ano ang kailangan nilang gawin para manalo talaga,” said NU coach Norman Miguel.

“Alam nila kasi ilang beses na-experience iyon,” he added.

Alyssa Solomon was solid in Game 1 after struggling in the Final Four against Far Eastern University with 17 points, including three blocks and matched Belen’s eight-dig output.