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Coach challenges UST veterans to play at higher level

Kungfu Reyes (C) addresses the UST Tigresses. Arvin Lim, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines – High school stars Eya Laure and Maji Mangulabnan have been a revelation for the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses in the V-League Season 13 Collegiate Conference as they have proven that they can more than just keep up with their senior teammates – they can outshine them.

With veteran open spikers Cherry Rondina and EJ Laure both attending to commitments with Foton, the younger Laure has stepped up offensively, and has shown she can handle the responsibility of being a No. 1 scoring option even for a college team.

Mangulabnan, for her part, has been holding her own against more veteran setters. As of Monday, she ranked eighth in the league with an average of 5.37 excellent sets per game.

In their quarterfinal game against National University on Monday, Laure scored a team-high 15 points on 15 attacks, while Mangulabnan had 15 excellent sets despite both players being subbed in and out throughout their three-set loss.

(READ: NU trounces UST in quarterfinals opener)

“Gusto kong makuha nila (Laure and Mangulabnan) ‘yung experience ng college,” said UST head coach Kungfu Reyes said after 21-25, 27-29, 13-25 setback. “I guess, may napatunayan sila kahit paano.”

“Although we’re on a losing skid, ‘di sila nagbabago ng laro,” he added.

Indeed, Laure and Mangulabnan have been more consistent than the senior players, some of whom played in Team A last year while some are trying to work their way back after spending last season in Team B.

Against NU, it was team captain Ria Meneses who shone brightest among the senior players, scoring eight points on five attacks, two blocks, and one ace. However, others – including Christine Francisco, Dominique Pacres, and Carla Sandoval – continue their up-and-down play. 

“Dapat nga mas maging aggressive sila, kasi kaya ng high school, bakit ako hindi,” Reyes said of his veterans. 

The coach said that during practices, the collegiate players compete at the same level as the high school stars, but this does not translate in the actual games, and has resulted in their losing streak.

“Siguro, pag sumabay ulit ‘yung college sa laro ng dalawa (Mangulabnan and Laure), doon kami mananalo,” Reyes said. “Pero sabi ko, tulungan naman nila ‘yung mga bata, kasi sila ‘yung nagtatapon, at ‘yung mga bata ang umi-score.”

“Bilang nakakatanda, (dapat) makikipagsabayan ako doon, o aangatan ko pa ‘yung laro ng bata,” he added, in an apparent challenge to his senior players. 

“Medyo kulang pa,” Reyes also said. “Lalo na ‘yung mga Team B o ‘yung iba pa na nag-UAAP. Kulang pa.”

UST now has a 0-3 record in the quarterfinals and will need to sweep their final two games to even have a chance of forcing a playoff for a semis spot.

Nevertheless, Reyes is not sweating their poor record as he said the V-League is a way for the UST players to gain exposure and show what they are capable of.

“May natutunan ‘yung mga bagong player, and at the same time, ‘yung mga nasa UAAP last year katulad nila Ria, nag-mature pa ‘yung leadership at nag-level up pa,” he said. 

“Kaya naman kami nandito ay para ma-expose, at para makita namin kung sino ang lumalaban hanggang dulo, kung sino ang consistent, at kung sino ang umaayaw,” he added.

“Naka-design para sa kanila ‘yung liga, para ipakita nila kung ano ‘yung meron sila.”

UST returns to action on Wednesday against the Gretchel Soltones-led San Sebastian College Lady Stags. 

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website

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