MANILA, Philippines — Far Eastern University coach Tina Salak banked on her rookies to snap a four-year skid against Ateneo and earn their second win in the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball tournament on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Alyzza Devosora led her fellow newcomers Mitzi Panangin, Gerzel Petallo, and libero Marga Encarnacion in the FEU fight back from a 1-2 match deficit and stave off Ateneo in a tight fifth-set encounter.
“Sila yung andun, yung presence nila. So priority ko sila. Hindi ko naman sinasabi na nawala yung mga seniors but yung sense of urgency kailangan eh. So sila yung ready,” said Salak shortly after their 25-12, 15-25, 19-25, 25-15, 18-16 victory.
“Very thankful talaga ako sakanila na kahit na freshman sila nagampanan nila yung role nila.”
(I’m not taking anything from the seniors but [our rookies] showed sense of urgency. They were ready. I’m very thankful to them because even they are freshmen, they fulfilled their roles.)
Devosora and Panangin joined hands with sophomore Jovelyn Fernandez, taking charge in the fifth set before Petallo nailed the game-winning block.
The 20-year-old Panangin shrugged off pressure in the fifth set as her eagerness to help FEU fueled her in keeping her team afloat in their neck-and-neck encounter with Ateneo.
“I was nervous in the fifth set but I did my best to help the team. I won’t be able to do it if we didn’t work together as a team,” said Panangin in Filipino after finishing with 11 points, including three blocks.
“We’re thankful to our coaches because they didn’t give up on us. They are always there to guide us and correct our mistakes.”
Encarnacion, 18, stood her ground against Faith Nisperos and the Blue Eagles as she was everywhere with 35 digs and 12 excellent receptions.
The young libero also showed maturity beyond years, guiding her teammates in the pressure-packed fifth set.
“I keep telling my teammates inside the court to relax, this is ours, and it’s not yet over. I tried my best to motivate my teammates for us to play bravely. That’s why whatever happened in the fifth set, we were relaxed and enjoying the game,” Encarnacion said.
“My teammates also brought out the best in me and with the help of my coaches, I was able to deliver [these numbers].”
It was FEU’s first win over Ateneo since May 4, 2019, when the Lady Tamaraws beat the twice-to-beat Blue Eagles, 10-25, 25-23, 25-22, 12-25, 15-8, in Game 1 of their Final Four series in Season 81.
Salak shrugged off their skid-ending win over the Blue Eagles as her focus is their current campaign, where they hold a 2-2 record.
“I want to stay in the present and look forward to another day. It doesn’t matter for me,” the rookie FEU coach said. “What’s important for me is whatever I can contribute to the team and we did that today. We will push harder because it’s still a long way to go. A lot can still happen in the second round.”
Salak wants her wards to get used to the winning feeling as they battle powerhouse La Salle, led by her former high school player Angel Canino, on Saturday.
“They shouldn’t get used to losing. They have to believe in themselves that they can do it. All the teams are beatable, they are just doubting themselves on how to do it,” she said.
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