Out of their claws

By Rick Olivares

WITH their three-set loss to Ateneo on Saturday, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Golden Tigresses fell to sixth place in the standings.

While mathematically they can still make the Final Four, their fate isn’t entirely in their hands.

For one, they have to win all three remaining matches—against Far Eastern University (FEU) (March 30), National University (NU) (April 3) and University of the Philippines (UP) (April 10). Second, they have to hope that UP and FEU, currently at third and fourth respectively, drop some matches.

The dangerous UP Lady Maroons took a huge loss to De La Salle for the crucial twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four. At this point, UP would like to consolidate its position when the Lady Maroons face NU (March 30), FEU (April 3) and UST (April 10), and hope that any of the top 2 squads drop games. UP could finish at 10-4, its best record in a long time, and give any of the top 2 teams a run for their money.

Speaking of the top 2 teams, they would like to stick to the top 2 spots. Two wins will ensure them a twice-to-beat advantage. Two losses will put them in a tie with UP. While it is unlikely that resurgent Ateneo will drop any two of their remaining three matches when they face Adamson University, University of the East and De La Salle in that order, a second loss to the Lady Spikers will drop them to second where they could face UP in the Final Four. Ditto with De La Salle as they face UE (April 2), Ateneo (April 10) and NU (April 13). You can make a case that NU is playing De La Salle—of course, but not with the way they have floundered.

FEU needs to solidify its position at fourth with at most two wins in their three remaining matches—UST, UP (April 3) and Adamson University (April 6).

NU is on the outside looking in as they play UP, FEU and De La Salle. But the Lady Bulldogs are 2-2 this second round, 2-5 in their last seven matches. To say that they are reeling is an understatement.

Again, they would have been better served had they played their current University Athletic Association of the Philippines team in the V-League, rather than let guest players bail them out.

Back to the UST Golden Tigresses.

They looked they righted their shaky ship after their three-set upset of De La Salle to close out their first round. They followed that up with another sweep of the hapless UE squad after which the Lady Spikers returned the favor with a three-set sweep of their own.

Then they battled Adamson in a five-setter before prevailing then dropped three sets to Ateneo in a match where they were never in the game.

Looking at the loss to the Lady Eagles, the young Tigresses clearly lacked maturity and big game experience, while their veterans were a no show. Chloe Cortez had three points, Carmela Tunay finished with two and Jessey De Leon ended up with one point. Marivic Meneses played better than she did in previous games but it wasn’t anywhere near enough. After Alyssa Teope faltered as starting setter, UST Coach Kungfu Reyes sent in veteran Alex Cabanos, but she wasn’t able to give the team a lift.

With Cherry Rondina mostly contained, UST’s only other option was EJ Laure who had problems defensively.

Listening to Reyes during their huddles, he expressed disappointment that his girls didn’t seem like they were hungry for the win. He tried everything from the simple reminders to the words of encouragement to even angrily issuing instructions. At this point, it’s a maturity issue or even a leadership. With Rondina more or less contained, it fell upon the others to contribute. When it didn’t happen, they fell apart.

The Holy Week break will allow them to mend bruised feelings and to get over their last loss. It will also allow time to heal niggling injuries and offer some badly needed rest. Mentally, though…that’s another concern.

UST is still in the hunt for the fourth spot. The sad thing is—it is out of their hands.