MANILA – The University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons were quiet and emotional as they headed back to the dugout in the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan, in the wake of a shock loss to the National University Lady Bulldogs.
Up 2-1 against the young NU team, the Lady Maroons squandered a late lead in the fourth set and found themselves dragged to a five-setter for the third time in Season 81. They were one point away from victory, 14-10, but wound up falling apart down the stretch as NU came from behind to snatch the win.
It was UP's second consecutive loss of the tournament, following a straight sets defeat to Ateneo de Manila University last Sunday. At 3-3, the Lady Maroons are just in fifth place in the league standings, despite entering the season as favorites to contend for the title.
UP coach Godfrey Okumu acknowledged that it was difficult to play the Lady Bulldogs: for all their youth, most of the NU players have been teammates since their high school days, and they already have chemistry with each other.
"NU is also a strong team. Most of them have been playing together for years, and it's always hard to play against such a team. There's always togetherness, there's a jell in them," he said in praise of the Lady Bulldogs.
The Lady Maroons talked amongst themselves for a long while before they were addressed by the coaching staff, and Okumu said that his players were "not taking it lightly."
"It's really a heartbreaking moment, it's hard for them as well," he said. "As much as a coach, I would like to shout, but it doesn't matter whether you shout or speak slowly or whatever you do, people will still listen, people will still hear you."
"So we just have to continue encouraging and go back to the drawing board, and see where we went wrong, and correct and make things right," he added.
Okumu further noted that the Lady Maroons are currently in a "very, very tight situation," as far as the team standings go. UP, right now, is already a full game behind Far Eastern University, La Salle, and University of Santo Tomas in the Final 4 race.
"The results are not good," he admitted.
"But," he added, "I believe we still have the fight in us."
The coach vows that the Lady Maroons will bounce back, even as he knows that they are not playing as they should be right now. The problems that hounded them against Ateneo last Sunday are still there; that is, they seem to be in a hurry to get things done inside the court.
"But, I think and I believe when we learn to be calm and we learn to be patient again, things will fall back in place," Okumu also said.
"So we need to be a little patient with what we are doing. The players need to be patient. They are in a hurry in doing things. We need to slow down a little bit," he added.
The Lady Maroons return to action on Sunday, against a skidding Adamson University team at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
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