Fight back: Lady Maroons look for stronger performance in second round

The University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons became the early favorites to win the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball title after their twin successes in the off-season.

Going into the season, the Diliman squad gained a strong stature and set themselves apart as the team to beat this year.

That pre-season success also meant more weight placed on their shoulders and the pressure to live up to expectations in bringing home the elusive UAAP title.

So when UP lost its game against the University of Santo Tomas and experienced back-to-back losses against the Ateneo de Manila University and National University, their dominant facade slowly collapsed.

After six games, the Lady Maroons found themselves in an unexpected territory–three wins, three losses, in the middle of the standings.

However, they are back on their winning form to end the first round on a high note.

The Lady Maroons finally bounced back from their two-game slump as they prevailed over the Adamson University Lady Falcons in four sets, 25-27, 25-14, 25-12, 25-21, earlier at the Filoil Flying V Center.

After losing grip of the first set, the Diliman squad won the next two sets convincingly with both their offense and defense working.

RELATED – UAAP: UP clips Adamson, returns to upper column with 4-3 card

While the Lady Falcons fought back in the latter part of the fourth set, UP already established a huge lead good enough to take the match and end the first round with a 4-3 slate.

According to graduating setter Ayel Estranero, their current win-loss record wasn’t what they expected to achieve at the start of the season, but said the team is looking at their first-round performance as an opportunity to improve their game for a better second round showing.

“It’s not what we actually aimed for, pero we’re happy that we’re in that kind of standing right now, because at least we found out things we need to improve on, what our weaknesses are, and it’s helpful going into the second round,” Estranero said.

Estranero said that their three losses became a learning experience for the team, as they realized their first-round lapses came from a mental standpoint rather than the physical strength.

“It’s not always the physical–it would always be the mental, how much we really want it, how much we’re working hard to earn every point and win the game,” Estranero said.

“I’m proud to say that the team is keeping a really positive mindset, that no matter how bad we lost in some of the games in the first round, we were able to bounce back now and we still continue going to training as motivated and giving the same effort,” she added.

Their game against Adamson saw a happier and more relaxed UP team with the players running around after every point, reminiscent of their UP Ikot celebration in the past season.

Going into the second round, Estranero hopes UP will shrug off the pressure coming from expectations and focus on playing better games for a stronger standing at the end of the eliminations.

“We’ve talked to ourselves that pressure will never be a reason for us to not perform well, because pressure will always be there. I guess the way we celebrated was more of reminding ourselves that we just have to enjoy the game,” Estranero said.

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