MANILA, Philippines — Coach Karl Dimaculangan and his National University Lady Bulldogs completed a rare elimination sweep of the Ramil De Jesus-coached La Salle to stay unbeaten in eight games in the UAAP Season 84 women’s volleyball tournament.
La Salle, which used to put fear in the eyes of its opponents with its intimidating presence and winning tradition, looked helpless against a bunch of youngbloods from a team that last tasted the sweet taste of championship back in the late 1950s.
The Lady Bulldogs, composed of the core of the five-time UAAP girls’ champions Bela Belen, Alyssa Solomon, Camilla Lamina, Ivy Lacsina, and Jennifer Nierva out of Nazareth School, were still too much for the Lady Spikers, under De Jesus’ winning program that won 11 titles, staying unscathed with a dominant 25-21, 25-20, 25-17 victory on Thursday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“We didn’t expect it (sweeping La Salle). As a team, we just really prepared well. We didn’t think of the outcome,” Dimaculangan said in Filipino. “We always make sure that we learn every game, every training, then we execute. These players worked hard for it and they are really listening and following our instructions.”
Dimaculangan, the new NU coach after spending two seasons with University of the East, became one of the few coaches that won back-to-back over La Salle coach De Jesus, who seldom lost consecutive games from a UAAP team.
The youthful NU mentor joined former Ateneo coach Tai Bundit, who swept La Salle in the eliminations and the finals in Season 77, and University of the Philippines head coach Godfrey Okumu and University of Santo Tomas coach KungFu Reyes both winning two straight matches over De Jesus in 2019.
But among all those coaches who beat the multi-titled Lady Spikers coach in consecutive games, Dimaculangan did it in back-to-back straight-set wins.
The brother of star setter Rhea Dimaculangan is not letting that big win get in the way of their unbeaten campaign so far, as he chose to remain as a student of the game in his quest to deliver NU’s first women’s volleyball title since 1957.
“Siguro bago din sa akin kasi di naman ako matagal na coach, bago lang din naman ako so student lang din naman ako sa game na volleyball,” he said. “Siguro marami ako natutunan din sa kanila, sa ibang coaches and sa mga games pa na darating.”
(This is a new experience for me. I’m just a new coach and I’m still a student in the game of volleyball. I still have a lot of things to learn from other coaches and in our upcoming games.)
The Lady Bulldogs won 10 straight matches, including two victories in the cancelled Season 82 two years ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tying their own winning streak record back in 2014 when Jaja and Dindin Santiago and Myla Pablo won 10 consecutive matches in the elimination round of Season 76 only to miss the Finals after squandering a twice-to-beat advantage and losing to the Alyssa Valdez-led Ateneo in the stepladder semifinals.
For team captain Cess Robles, the key to their dominant and unbeaten run so far is coach Dimaculangan’s trust for each player in their line-up.
“Kasi every game andiyan palagi yan tiwala din sa player, lahat sa sistema at lahat. Yung tiwala ni coach malaking bagay ‘yun sa amin,” Robles said.
(Coach Karl’s trust and system really help us to win every game. His trust really makes a huge impact on us.)
But reaching new milestones in their 10-game win streak and sweep of La Salle were just added learnings for NU as it shifts focus in its next game against Ateneo on Saturday.
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