Bella Belen of the NU Lady Bulldogs. – MARLO CUETO/

Before the start of the UAAP Season 86 women's volleyball tournament, National University (NU) highlighted redemption as its theme after being heartbroken by La Salle in its finals series last year.

But in trying to pick up the pieces of their broken dreams, the Lady Bulldogs may have tried too hard to achieve their goal.

“Sometimes in our desire to come back and uphold that word, redemption, we forget to enjoy and show our true game,” NU star Bella Belen told the Inquirer in Filipino after a dominant 25-14, 25-14 triumph, 25-12 against the hapless University of the East (UE) on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“I feel like we are still on the road to redemption, but more about how we can grow as a team and improve our performance. That’s where we are right now,” Belen said as NU improved to 8-2. “Because we know that we still have a lot to improve in each game to achieve our goal this season.”

And the Lady Bulldogs are getting closer to that goal with just four games left in the preliminary schedule. After overcoming the University of the Philippines to start a three-game winning streak in the second round, NU put on a clinical performance to gain revenge against the University of Santo Tomas (UST) before easily dealing with UE.

Season 85 tormentor La Salle, who dealt NU its second loss this season, is still among the remaining teams for the Lady Bulldogs to face, but this time Belen believes they can continue their momentum and make a run to the Final Four round a full speed.

“I think the team is ready and I’m confident they are capable,” Belén said, adding that there is still more in the Lady Bulldogs’ tank in terms of improvement.

“We are close to our best form, but we are not there yet because I know my teammates can give and do more as we showed during our pre-season adjustments,” she added.


No team slowed down NU in the second round and there is excitement among the Lady Bulldogs along with discussions about how they can be stronger when the Final Four round arrives.

“Like our game against UST, our motivation is to get revenge on them, correct the mistakes we made in the game against La Salle and (find out) why we lost,” she said.

But unlike before, when they were determined to redeem themselves, the Lady Bulldogs know they can't be careless moving forward.

“We always say to focus on one game at a time,” said Belén, who remained consistent with 13 points on eight attacks, four blocks and an ace, as well as 10 excellent digs and the same number of receptions.

“As the one who ate (Alyssa Solomon) said earlier, the more we rush things, the more we fail to achieve our goal, so we need to take our time and always be aware of our movement so we are aware of where we are and what is happening. the level of our game now,” she added.

Solomon had 14 points to lead NU, who had a field day attacking the UE defense. The Lady Warriors were unable to score a single point from the blocks.

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Defensively, the Lady Bulldogs also showed their teeth, holding EU super rookie Casiey Dongallo to a career-low six points after entering the game averaging over 23 points per game.