UP summons ‘puso’ to rise from the dead and win Intercol crown

“Puso lang.”

This was UP head coach Rod Palmero’s last plea to his spikers when they were on the brink of defeat against Adamson in the finale of the 2016 Intercollegiate men’s volleyball tournament Sunday at the University of the Cordilleras gym here.

After an inspired 4th set that allowed the Fighting Maroons to extend the match to a decider, they sputtered all of a sudden and trailed by as much as 5 points at the 8-13 juncture of the all important match.

On his final instructions to his squad when he pressed for his final timeout, Palmero shares, “‘Yung willingness lang nila manalo (ang ilabas nila) kasi alam naman namin na ‘yung kabila gusto din manalo. Sabi ko sa kanila, mas gustuhin natin manalo kaysa sa kanila.”

As if a twist made for a movie, the Diliman crew, led by veterans Wendel Miguel and Alfred Valbuena, put up a last stand to counter the onslaught of the streaking Falcons and succeeded to be declared champions of the league.

“‘Yun ang hinihingi ko sa kanila para ‘yung mga bago susundan sila. Hindi sila magiging pabigat at problema. Sila ‘yung magiging mitsa para umangat ‘yung laro ng mga bago,” said the UP mentor on his senior spikers.

Aside from Adamson, UP also bested fellow UAAP semifinalist NU and NCAA’s Mapua among the many teams who participated in the annual event.

But more than winning the gold, Palmero’s main goal was to give some of his young guns exposure in the off-season in preparation for the collegiate wars in 2017.

“Malaking boost para sa mga bata ito. Simula pa lang ng taon na ito nag champion kami at the same time sa UAAP pumasok kami sa apat,” he told FOX Sports. “Malaking exposure ito sa mga bago lalo na ‘yung veteran namin na si Evan (Raymundo) nawala na.”

Talking about their game-plan against Adamson, a team famed for its great floor defense, he adds, “Kailangan maging buo lang ang isang team. Kahit na sino na team ang makaharap niyo, basta buo kayo sa trabaho niyo as a team at sa isa’t isa, tulong-tulong at iisa ang sistema, mananalo.”

The huge win is perhaps the most glaring testament to the resurgence of UP’s volleyball program in the local scene.

And while UP’s women’s volleyball team—who sent its Team B to the tournament—was equally impressive by finishing as runner-up, the Fighting Maroons stole the limelight momentarily as the UP community celebrated their victory via congratulatory messages online.

Asked if he thinks this could lead to bigger financial support from the supporters, Palmero said people will throw in their support but first, the team has to do better in the coming tournaments.

“Hindi namin hinahanap ‘yung ganun na suporta agad eh. Pag nananalo kami, kusang lalapit ‘yan,” said the humble coach. “Nakakahiya naman kasi na pag may lumapit nagtatatalo kami. Ang iniisip namin kung ano ‘yung dapat laruin namin sa bawat tournament.”

“Mag improve muna bago tumanggap ng biyaya. Maging mababa muna,” he closed. — By Mac Dionisio