WITH a virtually new and young roster, National University (NU) isn’t expecting too much on its chances in the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference unfolding Sunday at the Paco Arena in Manila.
But the team is keen on making the most of its stint against the best teams in the fold.
“I think we will be the youngest team that will compete since our top players won’t be able to play due to their commitment to the UAAP [University Athletic Association of the Philippines],” said Dong dela Cruz, assistant coach of NU, which will now carry Archipelago Builders banner.
Behind the likes of star spiker Nico Almendras and top playmaker Joshua Retanar, the Bulldogs bucked the odds and stunned the seasoned Cignal HD Spikers to clinch the 2022 Spikers’ Turf crown then out-dueled University of Santo Tomas to claim the V-League Collegiate Challenge title.
Almendras and Retanar, however, along with the other aces, won’t be around to anchor the team’s title-retention bid since the Sports Vision-organized tournament will be held almost simultaneously with the UAAP men’s tournament set to open in February.
“But we’re ready to compete against the best teams,” said Dela Cruz, who will be pinning his hopes on holdovers Mac Bandola, Ahmad Abdul, libero Marco Maclang and setter Joseph Bello and newcomers Jan Abanilla, Joelbert Doromal, John Estrada, Edgar Florescan, Zulrich Gonzalez, Michael Hernandez, Bryan Jaleco, Leo Ordiales, Rhoy Parce and Rwenzmel Taguibolos.
Cignal and newcomer Imus and Cotabato are tipped to contend for the crown in the tournament, which drew 11 teams, including Sta. Rosa, PGJC-Navy, Army, Air Force VNS Volley Club, Iloilo and Vanguard Volleyball.
The Bulldogs will open their title retention drive on Wednesday against Vanguard Volleyball at 6 p.m.
Imus and Santa Rosa kick off hostilities tomorrow at 4 p.m. while Navy and Army tangle in the 6 p.m. main game.