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UAAP S81: a season of growth for the Lady Falcons

“I think that any time of great pain is a time of transformation, a fertile time to plant new seeds.”

– Debbie Ford 

The Adamson University Lady Falcons endured a grueling UAAP Season 81, but the foundations to reach greater heights have been set in the process. In a season that saw the Lady Falcons finish with a 2-12 record, character building became the main focus of the team. The Lady Falcons at the end of the season were almost unrecognizable from the team they were at the start.

Ever since taking over as head coach of the team, coach Onyok Getigan knew that he had his work cut out for him. In his care was a rag-tag team of young athletes that were pushed into the spotlight. Using his coaching style that preached simplicity over everything else, coach Onyok got to work in addressing the team’s weaknesses in order to give them a fighting chance.

While there was growth, there were expectedly, growing pains. At the start of the season, one of the biggest problems they faced was the amount of unforced errors they were committing. This led to team veterans Joy Dacoron and Eli Soyud trying to do too much in order to compensate. When points were awarded off poor sets, net touches and illegal attacks, frustration began to build for the team. While the veterans were willing to take it upon themselves to help lead their team to compete, it was especially difficult to do so when rallies ended in the favor of their opponents even before they could have a shot at the ball.

One of the main concerns coach Onyok cited about his players was their relative lack of experience which caused them to commit mistakes often. To remedy this the Lady Falcons focused on improving their skills and played tuneup games in order to learn how to use their improved skills in game situations.

Getting a fighting chance was only part of the equation. While they were already able to pose a threat on defense by having tall athletic blockers at the net coupled with the impeccable floor defense and hustle of Thang Ponce, the team lacked a reliable scorer. For the most part of the early season they kept looking for Joy Dacoron and her running spike to put pressure on opposing defenders. That pressure opened up the net for spikers Chiara Permentilla and Bernadette Flora.

However Joy could not be on the floor at all times and opponents got wise to her mode of attack, leaving Chiara and Bern frustrated as they saw their power spikes deflected back at them. This was when coach Onyok began to preach about teamwork on offense. He repeatedly reminded the players that the setters are the lifeblood of any team and that sheer power alone will not be enough to score.

But to build up something new, sometimes the old has to be torn down. The same was the case for the Lady Falcons whose on-court woes hit a boiling point in their second round meeting against UE. Frustration reached a boiling point as unfamiliarity with the newly implemented set plays put them through a new learning phase, causing miscues which hampered their attack.

With the veterans and sophomores struggling to make plays, coach Onyok looked to the rookies to get something going for the Lady Falcons. When their numbers were called, they answered. Rookies Trisha Genesis, Chen Ave and Krich Macaslang got their opportunity to show their mettle against defending champions DLSU, playing with confidence and leaving it all on the court.

In their second to the last game of the season against Ateneo, something began to click for the Lady Falcons. Their errors had been reduced significantly, their sets were beginning to find open spikers more often and there was noticeably an extra pep to their step. Players were getting to their zones on time and were faster to recover. It may have ended in another loss for them but they put up a fight. Even coach Onyok began noticing the improvement of the players, supporting them onward saying, “Di ba ang sarap maglaro kapag lumalaban?”

And so when they took to the court against UP for their final game of the season, it was as if a different Lady Falcons was playing. Like a phoenix from the flames, there was a fire burning new life into the players, eager to test out everything they’ve learned so far.

Setters MJ Igao and Nikka Yandoc surpassed expectations for that game, serving up on-point sets while controlling the flow of the offense. The result was that their spikers got plenty of good attack opportunities. Bernadette Flora pounded her way through the UP defenders while Chiara Permentilla was having her way on the opposite side, finding the gaps and rifling the ball down the line. By getting the rhythm down, Permentilla was able to give Adamson a sensational 16 points by the end of a 3-set match.

With the main gunners firing from all sides, the veterans were freed up to concentrate on their roles. Captain Eli Soyud served as the anchor of the team, controlling the pace and delivering run-stopping points when UP looked like they were building momentum. Meanwhile Joy Dacoron whipped out her o’l reliable running spike in the clutch. It was only fitting that the final rally of their season featured a Dacoron block followed by a running kill.

At the end of the season the coaching staff could not have been happier to send the team off on a win. The players having grown, pushing through adversity and overcoming obstacles together.

Hope for the Lady Falcons came in the form of news regarding recruits. Blue chip recruits that made big names for themselves in high school are waiting just around the corner to suit up for the Lady Falcons. It certainly doesn’t hurt that when they play their rookie season, they’ll be joining a team that is already preparing for takeoff. Trisha Genesis, Chen Ave and Krich Macaslang just to name a few have shown they are ready to take on bigger roles as early as their rookie season. Chiara Permentilla, Bern Flora and Thang Ponce have shown that they have what it takes to improve and become vocal on-court leaders.

Through all the ups and downs the team faced, at the very least the seeds have been planted this Season 81. Only time will tell if they will grow in time for Season 82 and what new heights they will take.

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SPOILER ALERT: Lady Falcons unleash new form in End Game