I was as excited as most fans were to see UP go up against FEU, the team that they beat during the second round of Season 76. The Lady Fighting Maroons was debuting three rookies: a natural setter, though small proved to have been a jewel (pun intended) of a find for Coach Jerry Yee; a tough serving outside hitter; and a second libero who was formerly awarded best attacker in her last stint in Palarong Pambansa.
It must had been a busy off season for Coach Jerry at the Diliman camp with the new faces and reshuffling of personnel, the team looked almost totally new. Last season’s setter Nicole Tiamzon was given back her open hitter position as well the responsibility of the team’s captain. Back-up libero, Vina Alinas was given attacking chores as well, especially that open hitter Angeli Araneta was moved to the middle blocker position. With the loss of some players due to academic problems, more new faces had been given playing time.
Much to the disappointment of UP fans, FEU easily took the game in straight sets, out-playing and out-gunning the Lady Maroons. Led by the sophomore Bernadette Pons, it was payback time for the Lady Tams whose final four hopes in Season 76 was foiled by the upset from the Diliman squad. Frustration was evident on the faces of the Lady Maroons as they struggled on both offense and defense. UP was missing the services of veteran Angeli Araneta who was taking the NMAT on the same day. Worse, Nicole Tiamzon played with a heavily bandaged knee after suffering an injury from a hit and run incident a few days before the game. But of course, there was no excuse for the loss because the Lady Tamaraws was simply the better team that day.
Despite the setback, the gallant stand put up by the new captain of Diliman earned the respect and admiration of fans. Tiamzon was a revelation. After all, who would have thought that the skinny kid, who for an entire season played setter, was a high leaping, hard hitting attacker?