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FEU Lady Tamaraws try to extend their inspiring run

FEU Lady Tamaraws UAAP volleyball

FEU Lady Tamaraws in the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament. –UAAP

MANILA, Philippines — Far Eastern University is daring to dream when it battles the twice-to-beat National University in the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball Final Four on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Lady Tamaraws won’t be contented with a Final Four appearance — the school’s first after missing the semifinals in the past two seasons — as they remain eager even when they’re facing the surging Lady Bulldogs, who swept the second round to clinch the No.1 seed.

Manolo Refugia, a former FEU men’s setter-turned-women’s team coach, hopes to see his wards continue their Cinderella run, sharing his perspective from a player, who once fought for school pride in the Final Four when he was still playing.

UAAP SCHEDULE: Season 86 volleyball Final Four

“It’s always a good feeling to fight for FEU since before until now,” said Refugia, who brought back the Lady Tams to the Final Four after four years in his first season as head coach.

What makes this season even more special for Refugia are the stories of his players, with the likes of Chenie Tagaod, Tin Ubaldo, Jean Asis, and other holdovers rising from being cellar-dwellers in Season 84 to this year’s one of the four title contenders.

Another interesting angel is Congolese spiker Faida Bakanke finding her home in Manila and living the dream of a student-athlete.

READ: UAAP: With Final Four return achieved, FEU coach dreaming big

“The stories of my players, those from Season 84, those from last year, and when you look at their stories now you can see the results and that’s a good feeling,” said Refugia, who was an assistant coach in the past two seasons. 

Tagaod, FEU’s main weapon in the past two seasons, is proud of her teammates after finally reaping all their sacrifices and hard work in the past three years.

“We came alive last year. Now, we’re fighting hard again. I’m proud of my ream because no matter what we’ve gone through, we’re still here for each other,” said Tagaod. 

FEU Lady Tamaraws' Chenie Tagaod.

FEU Lady Tamaraws’ Chenie Tagaod. –MARLO CUETO/

But Refugia said that FEU’s inspiring story shouldn’t end with just a Final Four appearance, motivating the Lady Tamaraws to continue believing in themselves.

“This shouldn’t end here, we have more to show,” the youthful FEU coach said. “We’re going start believing in ourselves first as a team so we can show what we’re capable of against NU.”

Bakanke, Tagaod, and the Lady Tamaraws try to live another day and hope to prevent NU, led by the trio of Bella Belen, Alyssa Solomon, and Vange Alinsug, from reaching the UAAP Finals for the third straight time.

Facing a team that swept them in the elimination and armed with a twice-to-beat edge is a tall order, but Refugia believes anything is possible.

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“I keep on saying that we need to trust ourselves. It’ll be a good feeling to face NU. Once they realize that, they will give their best,” he said.

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