June 2, 2013
Who Let The (Lady Bull)Dogs Out?
I love this song. It was sang by the Baha Men.
Then why use it as a title?
Its because it reminded me of the recent success of the National U Lady Bulldogs in the Shakey’s V-League 10-First Conference. You see, NU dethroned erstwhile back-to-back champion Ateneo with a gripping, teeth-grinding 25-23, 25-20, 17-25, 26-24 win in the Sudden Death Sunday to complete its ascent to the top. So comes the song. Only in this case, its who let the Lady Bulldogs out.
NU’s victory was an interesting one because it accomplished many firsts. Like it won its first ever title in the Shakey’s Pizza-bankrolled league after having finished as high as fourth two years ago. This championship also happens to be the first by the Jhocson-based school in any volleyball event since it reigned supreme in the UAAP twice in a row from 1956-57.
It’s also important to note that NU’s victory was tarnished after their big, glass championship trophy got shattered moments after they triumphantly hoisted it. I mean, they can handle the pressure and yet they couldn’t prevent their trophy from being broken? Just asking folks. They say its the bouncers’ fault. But we have no way to confirm it. Whoever is the culprit, the important thing is that NU won the title, with or without the trophy.
Making it sweeter is that the Lady Bulldogs lost the series opener after feeling the championship jitters and getting smashed by the more experienced Lady Eagles, thanks to their multi-titled coach in Roger Gorayeb and their two year reign as First Conference champs. They were a different animal from there as they showed the lethal form that got them as far as the finals. Not even Ateneo’s vast championship experience could stop NU from claiming their destiny.
It probably mattered also that NU has the most experienced player in its fold. I am referring to the versatile Ruby de Leon, the LeBron James of this series. Unless you’re hiding in a cage, de Leon has done it all. Name it. Setting up her teammates for scoring opportunities. Blocking kills by the opposing spikers. Receiving at times. Unloading clutch service aces. Uncorking fake sets. Or just the plain, simple encouragement she always gave when her younger teammates appeared on the brink of faltering or succumbing to the pressure. Heck, you can even consider her as NU’s second coach on the court while mentor Edjet Mabbayad gives out instruction from the bench. Like they say, two heads are better than one. It applies on this series.
De Leon’s best moment came in the pivotal fourth set when, the match tied at 24-24, she came through with a clutch two-handed push to the unguarded right corner that shattered the deadlock. She then set up the Dindin Santiago, the 6-2 NU skipper who is also the league’s season MVP, for the decisive, title-clinching kill. The it was all pandemonium from there.
Mabbayad has nothing but good words for de Leon after. “She’s the smartest player I know and her experience was key in this series, she’s like my coach inside the court,” says Mabbayad, who is interestingly four years younger than the 30-year-old de Leon.
And de Leon, a former Air Force woman who now coaches Poveda, doesn’t mind getting instructions from Mabbayad. “I take whatever I can absorb, including some from coach (Mabbayad),” says de Leon, who now has two championships after she helped the Santo Tomas Tigresses, her alma mater, win V-League crown in 2009.
Little that everyone know, de Leon, the league’s Best Spiker, isn’t a…spiker. Really? “I started as an open spiker when I was still in high school. But when I came to UST, coach August (Santamaria) told me to be a setter instead, which I did. I’m so glad I heed coach’s advice,” de Leon recalls.
As for Mabbayad, who was appointed NU coach on an interim basis last April, he may end up out there on the NU bench on a permanent basis for steering the Lady Bulldogs to their current historic feat.
For the whole NU team, with only de Leon and libero Jen Reyes not playing and the rest like Dindin and Jaja Santiago, Best Attacker Myla Pablo, Carmina Aganon and Aiko Urdas seeing action, the sky is the limit in the forthcoming UAAP wars. We’ll never know, we may just sing this rap song titled:
Who let the (Lady Bull) dogs out?
Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar
(Photos courtesy of Shakey’s V-League)