The UP Lady Fighting Maroons look to be on track to achieve the goal they’ve set before the start of UAAP Season 81 — get into the Final Four. After seven tough matches against the best collegiate volleyball teams in the country, UP has secured a 4-3 record, good enough for fourth place. But can the UPWVT hold on to its Final Four spot until the end of round two?
UAAP 81 Round 1 Highlights
The Lady Maroons kicked-off the season with a grueling five-setter against the UE Lady Warriors. It wasn’t the start they had hoped for UAAP 81; especially after coming off two off-season championships and facing Season 80’s bottom dwellers in the opener.
While they did end up with the W, it was obvious the team struggled. UP had to endure being down two-sets-to-one before mounting a comeback that was capped by a nail-biter 15-12 fifth set win.
The team, however, showed much resiliency as it faced further obstacles.
After scoring a convincing victory against FEU, the Maroons had to go up against powerhouse UST Golden Tigresses without their lead setter Ayel Estrañero due to food poisoning. But the ladies didn’t give up. Despite a four-set loss to the Sisi Rondina-led squad, the Maroons bounced back in the best way possible — beating the three-time defending champions, DLSU Lady Archers.
It was a stunner to say the least. For those who didn’t follow the off-season, it was a game that UPWVT had no business winning. Yet there they were, serving DLSU its first loss since the first round of UAAP 80, snapping its 14-game winning streak.
The win proved that the Maroons are indeed contenders and that winning is now in the team’s DNA. As Fox Sports perfectly placed it, “The Lady Maroons just made their case stronger as this year’s heavy title contenders.”
The high then came with another low. The Maroons lost back-to-back against ADMU and NU, with the latter L coming in another five-setter. Almost losing their early seat in the top four, the Maroons recovered again with a dismantling of the Adamson Lady Falcons.
What To Expect From Round 2?
Speaking to Coach Godfrey Okumu prior to the season, the UPWVT head coach said he believes the team can go all the way.
“I believe the team is very ready. We’ve worked and prepared well, and we are ready to go.”
Despite not facing Ateneo and DLSU in the pre-seasons, the Diliman-based squad has proven that they can go head-to-head with the league’s top favorites.
“It’s something that is achievable, but it will take a lot of hard work. Nothing comes easy,” Coach Okumu added.
Hard work and teamwork were most apparent in the Lady Maroons’ biggest wins of the season (versus AdU and DLSU). In their last game against Adamson, 10 players delivered points to secure the victory, with three scoring in double digits and another with 9 markers. If UP wants to secure a semi-finals spot, they have to do the same.
It has been a running joke among fans, but another key to getting the wins would be Estrañero’s performance. The do-it-all setter has been putting up impressive excellent set figures and if we can keep her from having another unplanned trip to the E.R., UP has a fighting chance against any opponent.
— ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) March 2, 2019
Co-captains Tots Carlos and Isa Molde will also have to continue leading the team, not only in points but also in grit and a never-say-die attitude. Leaders on and off the court, the two seniors are expected to pile the attack points as they head into the second half of the season.
No worries though, as fans can expect the UP Lady Fighting Maroons to lay it out all on the court. As Molde promised at the start of the season, “Lalaban kami!”
The UP Lady Fighting Maroons will again face the DLSU Lady Archers to start round two of UAAP 81. The match is scheduled for Sunday (March 24), 4pm at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo.