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NU seeks volley sweep

National University tries to flex its muscle in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 volleyball wars that are set to begin early next year.

With the return of men’s competition as well as the boys and girls high school divisions, NU guns to complete a historic sweep of the centerpiece second-semester spectator sports on all fronts.

NU had a chance to accomplish the feat back in 2020 after it won both high school contests only to be spoiled by the Covid-19 pandemic that canceled the men’s and women’s tournaments just three playdates into Season 82.

Now with the league returning to a full calendar after three years, NU gets another golden opportunity to become the first school to win all four gold medals in volleyball in a single season.

The closest school to achieve such a feat was the University of Santo Tomas back in Season 72 (2009-10) when it ruled the men’s, women’s, and girls’ divisions, only missing the boys’ title to the then powerhouse University of the East.

Hopes for a repeat are high for the Lady Bulldogs as they had a perfect campaign in the UAAP Season 84 last June — the only volleyball division played in the return of the league — and the Shakey’s Super League Collegiate Preseason Championship.

With only Ivy Lacsina foregoing her playing eligibility, NU will be parading an intact championship core composed of reigning Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year Bella Belen, Alyssa Solomon, setter Cams Lamina, Sheena Toring, libero Jen Nierva and outgoing senior Ces Robles.

The Lady Bulldogs are also fielding a bunch of newcomers from its successful high school volleyball program led by Vangie Alinsug.

With NU winning all 16 games on their way to ending a 65-year title drought in the UAAP and all eight games in the SSL, head coach Karl Dimaculangan accepts the fact that everyone will be after their necks.

“The more we win, the more pressure there is for us. That’s why it’s our No. 1 priority not to be complacent,” he said.

As part of their preparation, the Lady Bulldogs had a training camp in Japan before the Christmas break.

On the other hand, the Bulldogs are gunning for a three-peat.

NU just like its women’s counterpart, remains the title favorite based on its performance in the pre-season.

The Bulldogs dominated the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference beating the country’s top commercial clubs including their finals victim Cignal. NU followed it up by conquering the V-League men’s Collegiate Challenge.

“Yes, we are the champions but we still need to work to remain champions,” Bulldogs coach Dante Alinsunurin said.

“We have a lot to work on and we will prepare well for Season 85.”

The Bulldogs will be fielding a squad brimming with confidence and championship experience spearheaded by holdovers Nico Almendras, setter Joshua Retamar and young guns Michaelo Buddin, Kenny Malinis and Obed Mukaba.

On the other hand, NU’s boys’ team is also poised to annex a third straight title while the girls’ squad is favored for a back-to-back.

With the UAAP volleyball season just around the corner, NU is sure to walk with a huge target behind its back.

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