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FEU Lady Tamaraws hope to capitalize on Cinderella run

FEU Lady Tamaraws after ending their UAAP Season 86 women's volleyball tournament campaign.

FEU Lady Tamaraws after ending their UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament campaign. –MARLO CUETO/

MANILA, Philippines — Getting swept by National University in their do-or-die Final Four series was a tough pill to swallow for the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws after their Cinderella run in the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament ended.

FEU couldn’t sustain its momentum from its straight-set stunner in the first game against the twice-to-beat NU last Saturday after the Lady Bulldogs returned the favor with a dominant 25-13, 27-25, 25-15 win en route to their third straight Finals appearance on Wednesday in front of 13,000 fans at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Faida Bakanke, Chenie Tagaod, and Tin Ubaldo were heartbroken after missing the chance to become the first No.4 team to reach the women’s volleyball finals and end the school’s five-year finals drought.

UAAP SCHEDULE: Season 86 volleyball Finals UST vs NU

“It is my first year [in] the UAAP. I played well with my teammates and the coaches. We need to accept losing [and] the mistakes. We may haven’t accepted it now but we need to learn to accept that, so next year we can bounce back stronger,” said Bakanke, who ended her rookie year with seven points.

Ubaldo, who dished out 14 excellent sets on top of four points, and the Lady Tamaraws were encouraged by rookie coach Manolo Refugia to keep their heads up despite the heartbreaking exit as they were able to bring back the school to the Final Four after two seasons and almost upset powerhouse NU.

“We’re sad but we have to look at the brighter side as coach Manolo told us. We had a great run from one win in Season 84, fifth in 85, and this time, we’re fourth place,” said Ubaldo in Filipino. “We’re super happy because a lot of fans still supported us. Despite our shortcomings, they still believe in us.”

READ: NU Lady Bulldogs oust FEU, face UST in UAAP volleyball Finals

Tagaod, who was the top scorer for FEU with nine points, was grateful for her teammates after staying together and having each other’s back, especially  coach Refugia for keeping the Lady Tamaraws together amid the several changes in their program

“Our team has improved a lot. We may have fallen short today but hopefully, by next year, our time will come,” said Tagaod.

FEU Lady Tamaraws rookie Faida Bakanke reacts after losing their UAAP Season 86 Final Four game

FEU Lady Tamaraws rookie Faida Bakanke reacts after losing their UAAP Season 86 Final Four game. –MARLO CUETO/

Refugia said no one from the team will graduate after their impressive season, hoping to come back stronger and get over the hump next year with still an intact roster.

READ: UAAP: FEU rises to title contender after worst-ever finish

“We’re proud because we met our goal of returning to the Final Four. We’ll never forget how this program started from scratch two years ago and the players have grown and learned together,” said the youthful FEU coach.
“We still have more years to come. We shared the experience of winning and felt a tinge of regret in losing games. We’re still intact next year and there’s a lot of room to improve for the players and even us, coaches.”

Bakanke, who found her home in Manila, vows to be better to repay the love she received from her team and the Philippine volleyball community.

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“I want to say thank you to the Filipino community for the love and being kind to me. Next season, we come back stronger. Maraming-maraming salamat sa Filipino community,” said the Congolese opposite spiker.

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