After a two-year absence, six-time champion University of Santo Tomas returns to the Shakey’s V-League Season 9 unfolding Tuesday, April 24, wary but hopeful of its chances with a virtually new roster and a new system under a new coach.
“I cannot really say how strong we are since five UAAP teams are in the fold, including three of the top five last season,” said UST coach Odjie Mamon, who took over coaching chores last year. “So we will bring our A-game and hopefully the infusion of Mary Jane Balse and Thai Kunbang Pornpimol will further boost our chances.”
A former MVP, Balse’s experience and leadership will be a big factor for UST’s campaign together with Pornpimol’s power. But the road back to championship will be bumpy with Mamon hoping to motivate and draw the best from his rookie-laden team that had struggled to keep itself in competitive form because of a lack of practice venue.
“It’s really tough (to prepare) due to lack of practice venue,” said Mamon, citing the renovation being done on the UST gym and the unavailability of the school’s new sports complex.
Tipped to provide added firepower are Maika Ortiz, Rhea Dimaculangan, Maruja Banaticla, Judy Caballero and Jamie Morado with support from Midori Hirotsuji, Katrina Carangan, Ingrid Reyes, Tricia Lastimosa, Ma. Carmela Tunay, Jan Dusaran, Ma. Loren Lantin, Laine de Leon and Jen Amar.
With the rest of the teams boasting of formidable lineups and backstopped by talented reinforcements, the Tigresses will have to work doubly hard to at least gain a crack at the another crown in the league sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza.
Or better still, duplicate their feat in 2007 when they came back after missing Season 3 and swept the two-conference Season 4 of the league organized by Sports Vision.
UST opted to skip the league in the second conference of Season 7 due to graduation of its key players after scoring a three-conference sweep that raised its title conquest to six.
“We will maximize our games and it will be nice if we’ll be able to reach the finals,” said Mamon, adding that their V-League stint will serve them in good stead as they crank up their buildup for the coming UAAP season where they finished third behind La Salle and Ateneo last year.
“We re-joined because it’s a really a good exposure for the team. Last year, we only competed in the Unigames before the UAAP season, so we really lacked experience especially with a lot of new players in the team,” said Mamon.
He has picked Ateneo, NCAA champion Perpetual Help and runner-up Letran as the teams to beat although the rest are capable of pulling off a surprise or two, making the event truly worth watching.