A coaching change certainly worked wonders last season

By Catherine Orda | Photo by Tristan Tamayo

When long-term University of the East (UE) Lady Warriors coach Francis Vicente unexpectedly ditched his post in the middle of UAAP Season 80, the team faced equally unexpected consequences.

They could’ve been severely fazed by Vicente’s move, yet when UE sports director Rod Roque stepped in as interim head coach, the Lady Warriors turned in one of their best results in recent UAAP history. In Season 80, the Roque-led squad secured back-to-back victories against the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Golden Tigresses and the Adamson University Lady Falcons. It’s an outcome considered a miracle by the sports community for a number of reasons.

First, the team doesn’t exactly have the most impressive track record. The last time they performed that well was back in Season 74—otherwise the Lady Warriors has pretty consistently succumbed to a losing streak.

Another remarkable thing about the result was the relatively slim timeframe in which it was achieved: Whereas it took Vicente about three and a half seasons to achieve two wins (he ended his coaching stint with a 2-45 win-loss record), the impressive two-in-a-row upset pulled off under the helm of Roque happened in just a matter of three games. The team unfortunately wasn’t able to sustain their momentum after that triumph, as they still ended up at the bottom last season. It seems odd to have built hype around this one result, only to conclude the narrative by pointing out their eventual defeat.

It’s possible, though, that the true worth of that short-lived victory has less to do with the season’s final outcome and more with what it was able to highlight: That for one, the Lady Warriors could seriously benefit from a coaching change. After strings of losses season after season, it’s obvious that something had to give. Roque breathed new life into the team, introducing a kind of positivity that was able to draw out stellar performances from athletes that had been discouraged by constant defeat and the lack of support and attention it entailed.

Take their Season 80 match against the UST Golden Tigresses for instance. Roque credits their win to the Tigresses’ less-than-serious attitude as they took on the ostensibly dark horse team.

It’s possible, though, that the true worth of that short-lived victory has less to do with the season’s final outcome and more with what it was able to highlight: That for one, the Lady Warriors could seriously benefit from a coaching change. After strings of losses season after season, it’s obvious that something had to give

“They underestimated us and that was a big factor, they thought the Lady Warriors wouldn’t put up a fight,” said Roque to Inquirer.net. “We scouted the video, how UST’s players positioned themselves and we studied that and the players exchanged ideas.”

Shaya Adorador, perhaps the squad’s best known player, secured her team’s victory by breaking a tie with a crosscourt kill. Their match against the Adamson University Lady Falcons meanwhile saw them utilizing a thicket of arms to throw off opponents. Indeed, it was in those two matches that the Lady Warriors found it in themselves to play to their strengths. Slated as one of the league’s tallest teams, the Lady Warriors can certainly do well this season should they choose to capitalize on height. Yet it goes without saying that UE shouldn’t stick to a strategy dependent on blocks, as blocks alone can’t win you a game.

It seems too obvious and simple a thing to say but the Lady Warriors will need to improve in every other aspect if they want to escape their rut. Roque might have helped the team realize their true potential, but it’s still up to the players themselves to successfully convert that potential into kinetic talent.

But a new coach has also recently been appointed. Former UST setter Ray Karl Dimaculangan, who was the Lady Warriors’ assistant coach, is now officially the team’s head coach. Considering the glimpse of success they showed last season, and with yet another new coach on board, it would be unfair to assume that all odds are stacked against the Lady Warriors this season.