Looking at the NU Lady Bulldogs in the V-League

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column-rick olivaresTHE “new-look” National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs defeated the Laoag Power Smashers in four sets—25-21, 20-25, 25-23, 25-21—to win their opening assignment of the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Open Conference.

“New look” in the sense that Roger Gorayeb had only 11 players in the lineup and he played nine of them and there were some tweaks—Risa Sato was finally in a NU uniform, Roma Doromal was given some playing time and Jasmine Nabor, who played the utility position last year, was now the setter (since Rica Diolan decided that she was better off elsewhere).

While it is the off-season and it’s a time for learning (back to the basics for NU), the pressure is less. However, it certainly doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t perform.

What did I like about their performance?

I thought they had a different disposition about them—sunnier, more smiles. Maybe it’s the freshness of the new season. Maybe it’s because they are moving on from the debacle of last season. Whatever it is, there was a joy to them even when Laoag took the lead in the second set. This led to looseness, but not in a bad way. They were having fun. They were diving for balls. Hustling.

And I have never seen Gorayeb applaud the efforts of his team in this manner before.

Grading Risa Sato (middle hitter)

Showed glimpses of what she can do—block, hit, dig. Now that her first game with NU is done, she has to show it more consistently. She should help shore up their blocking.

Gayle Valdez (libero)

Did all right. But am looking for her to play a better supporting role behind the blockers.

Jasmine Nabor (setter)

In her two years in high school, she played setter. She moved to the open and utility positions after that until this summer when Gorayeb asked her to play the role again. I thought that last season she played well and this time, I think she’s even better.

Look at her match stats—10 points, four block points (tied with Jaja Santiago), three service aces and 31 excellent sets.

There is so much more that the stats do not say.

On three occasions, the ball was over received and before a Laoag middle hitter could send it back emphatically, Nabor managed to reel it back and perfectly set up Santiago for a powerful spike. That was impressive, considering it fooled the blockers and left the Power Smashers open to a power smash.

And similar to how University of the Philippines’s (UP) plays Nicole Tiamzon as an opposite player and alternate setter, when the need arises, she, too, can hit that ball. And she did.

Furthermore, Jasmine displayed even better instincts in saving and digging the ball.

I know that NU has a Filipino-American setter coming in so where this leaves Nabor, I am not sure. Maybe it will be like how UP Coach Jerry Yee alternated setter Jewel Lai and Tiamzon when one faltered.

Earlier, I talked about the team’s disposition. I think they fed off on Nabor’s effervescence. I even pointed this out on numerous occasions to National University Athletic Director Chito Loyzaga and University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Board Representative Nilo Ocampo.

Also, as I said earlier, let’s see how they fare against Pocari Sweat next Wednesday, June 1. The Michelle Gumabao-led squad took down UP in three sets in the nightcap of Opening Day.

The smiles and buoyancy—after Gorayeb entered the team locker room following the traditional post-match interviews, the entire team erupted with “yays!”

It’s not a championship. It’s just a new attitude. Or at least they hope so.