Posted Feb 16th 2014
Lady Tams seek redemption
By Anthony Divinagracia Posted Nov 30th 2013
Rain poured instantly as Toni Basas and some of her teammates made their way out of the gym.
Yet the downpour was so noticeably heavy Far Eastern University (FEU) assistant coach Shaq delos Santos had to remind everyone as they line up down the stairs.
“Wag magpapa-ulan ha. May laro na tayo sa Linggo.”
Everyone looked at Delos Santos as he delivered that casual reminder.
And Basas, who had just returned from her typhoon-ravaged home in Tacloban City, nodded in affirmation.
Delos Santos had just capped another round of training with the new-look FEU women’s volleyball team.
Prior to dismissing his wards at half past three in the afternoon, Delos Santos joined them in a brief huddle with head coach Kid Santos.
“Ni-remind lang ni coach Kid yung mga bata sa mga lapses nila kanina (sa training). More of encouragement lang din. Yung sa plays sa akin na pinapa-handle,” said Delos Santos, who coached University of Santo Tomas (UST) to its last championship back in 2010.
Unique coaching setups were not new to Delos Santos, especially after FEU decided to end long-time mentor Nes Pamilar’s tour of duty in the middle of last season.
“Mabigat yun e. Ang laking factor sa coaching staff at players,” Delos Santos recalled, noting the impact of Pamilar’s sudden departure to the Lady Tamaraws’ Final Four campaign.
“Siyempre, yung ibang players na ni-recruit (ni coach Nes) ‘di naiwasang sumama yung loob. For a while nawala sila sa focus. Medyo kinapos na rin yung performance namin (sa mga crucial game).
Road to redemption
But for Delos Santos, the emotional and psychological wounds of that forgettable campaign have just given the Lady Tamaraws extra motivation to redeem themselves as the season draws nears.
Last October, that brush with redemption culminated with FEU’s stunning victory over three-peat champion De La Salle University in the University Games volleyball semis. Despite parading a rookie-laden line-up, the Lady Tamaraws forced eventual winner UST to five gruelling sets before yielding.
“Kahit puro sila bata, naipakita nila na kaya nilang sumabay sa mas beteranong team. Sa UniGames nakikita naman namin na pinu-push nila yung laro nila kaya lang pag crucial (nag-e-error),” Delos Santos said.
Still, with the kind of game FEU displayed in the pre-season, cohesion is just a few workouts away before the Lady Tamaraws’ mix of veterans and newcomers finally hit the right buttons.
Fourth-year captain and Season 74 Best Setter Gyzelle’s leadership will be among the keys to solidifying the Lady Tamaraws as a unit.
The 21-year old Sy will also need help from fellow seniors Basas, Mayjorie Roxas, Christine Agno, Samantha Dawson and sophomore Remy Palma to offset the departure of ace hitters Rosemarie Vargas and Wenneth Eulalio.
Vargas, who led FEU in scoring last season with 183 points hinged on 142 hits, opted to concentrate on playing in the V-League and the Philippine Super Liga. Eulalio on the other hand has already used up her eligibility.
Roxas for her part is still recovering from a knee injury she suffered last season.
“Nandiya na yung potential. Kailangan lang maging tight pa yung team at mabuo sila as one para mas magandan ang communication sa loob,” Delos Santos said.
“Lagi namin pinapaalala, especially sa mga veterans na kalimutan na yung nangyari last year kasi iba na yung sitwasyon ngayon. Kami na yung nandito. Eto na yung program namin.”
Of FEU’s seven rookies, Delos Santos sees 17-year old Bacolod native Bernadeth Pons provide a quick impact for the Lady Tamaraw early on.
“Mataas na yung level ng laro ng bata pero siyempre ‘di pa ring maiwasan na lumabas yung inexperience. Sinasabi na lang namin sa kanila na ‘wag gawing dahilan yung pagiging bata. Dapat mag-step up at mag-improve pa.”
Improved chemistry and teamwork will come in handy for the Lady Tamaraws, who aim for no less than a return to the Final Four amid the imposing presence of title favorites La Salle, National University, and Adamson University, among others.
“Mahabang liga ito. Marami pang pwedeng mangyari pero ready kami sa kahit anong team. Lahat sila tinuturing namin na malakas kaya bawal kaming mag-relax,” Delos Santos said.
It’s still raining. But Delos Santos doesn’t mind now. The Lady Tamaraws know what to do – starting on Sunday.