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Young, undersized UST Tigresses ready for fight of their lives


Young, undersized Tigresses ready themselves for fight of their lives

MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

University of Santo Tomas (UST) couldn’t have gotten off to a better start in the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament.

Angge Poyos wants more than that.

“We had a beautiful start to the season; I hope we can end it in a beautiful way, too,” Poyos, the smashing rookie Tigress, said late Sunday after leading her team to a nerve-testing 25-20, 16-25, 25-20, 19-25, 15-7 victory over La Salle during their Final Four showdown at Mall of Asia Arena.

READ: UAAP: Deja vu for UST but Tigresses eye different outcome

And there can be no better way to end the season beautifully than to win the women’s volleyball crown again after a 14-year wait.

Heavyweights

The last time the event’s traditional heavyweights won the title was in 2010 with a roster that almost mirrors this latest version of the Tigresses.

UST was then led by Rhea Dimaculangan, a quick-thinking setter also known for her strong service game, and Aiza Maizo, a left-handed spiker. This year’s team features the league’s best setter and server, Cassie Carballo, and two lefty hitters who bedeviled the Lady Spikers into surrendering their title—Jonna Perdido and Reg Jurado.

“I have a feeling that we can bring the crown back to España if we remain hardworking in all our trainings and games,” Perdido said, referring to the boulevard fronting their school’s historic campus. Perdido finished with 18 points as she again tormented La Salle with her attacking.

And like that 2010 squad, the current Tigresses have enough talent in their young roster, led by the inimitable Poyos, who finished with 28 points on Sunday. “I’m happy because this is my first season and I’m grateful that we carried ourselves … to the Finals,” said Poyos, whose total was built around 25 kills, two aces and a block.

The Tigresses, despite having one of the smallest attack corps in the league, burst out of the gates blazing, winning their first eight games and holding on to first place until getting stunned by Far Eastern University (FEU) late in the second round.

READ: UAAP: UST hopes semblance to 2010 title team leads to championship

But UST kept its poise and negated its lack of height with excellent court coverage and a variety of attacks. A loss to National University (NU) had the team on the edge, but the Tigresses bounced back strong with a four-set win over La Salle to close out the elimination round with the No. 2 seed and twice-to-beat protection.

The Tigresses did not have to fish out that card.

UST has one of the youngest rosters in the league, with Detdet Pepito, the team’s captain and chief libero, having the most UAAP experience as a junior.

Most of the names on the roster are freshmen and sophomores.

“We proved ourselves to doubters, right in our very first game,”Pepito said.

None of the Tigresses were around the last time UST made the Finals in 2019, where the school lost to a tall Ateneo squad in a series that went the distance.

That time, UST also ousted La Salle in the Final Four.

“People say history repeated itself,” UST coach KungFu Reyes said. “This time, we hope to change the result. We just have to work hard. And then maybe, we can get lucky in the Finals.”

UST had to wait for its Finals opponent after FEU dragged NU to a deciding duel in their half of the semifinal duel. The top seed Lady Bulldogs and No. 4 Lady Tamaraws face off on Wednesday for the last championship berth.

The Tigresses will use the waiting period to get even better.



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“We’re here anyway, might as well give it our all,” Reyes said. “We will pour everything that we have left. The best [way] is to work hard every day, more on repetitions.” INQ





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