‘Mini Miss UST’ finds herself atop UAAP Season 86, clinches Final Four berth

‘Mini Miss UST’ finds herself atop UAAP Season 86, clinches Final Four berth
UST Golden Tigresses clinch a Final Four berth. —PHOTOS COURTESY OF UAAP SEASON 86 MEDIA TEAM

Rejuvenated from the Holy Week break, super rookie Angge Poyos dropped 31 points to lead University of Santo Tomas to an impressive bounce-back win in the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.

The España-based Golden Tigresses survived a shaky start against Adamson University to secure the victory in four sets, 22-25, 25-20, 26-24, 25-20.

UST rookie Angge Poyos
Rookie Angge Poyos goes up for a powerful spike.

Poyos believes having time off from the game worked wonders for her mind and body.

“The [Holy Week] break was huge because I got the time to reflect and recover, especially for my knees,” said Poyos, who produced the highest output from any UST player since Eya Laure in 2022.

“I’m so thankful because now I’m a hundred percent and I’m feeling good physically,” she added. “I’m also thankful I was able to give it my all in this game.”

Powerhouse team

Nobody expected UST to be among the powerhouse teams this season. Yet, here they are.

UST Golden Tigresses team captain
Team captain Detdet Pepito

For team captain Detdet Pepito, the latest win was more than just booking another win. She admits that proving the doubters wrong is a victory in itself.

“Of course, I’m happy because people were calling us ‘Mini Miss UST’ before,” the Tigresses’ lone veteran said. “We were also reading comments, saying we were going to get slaughtered or whatever.”

“But I’m happy we were able to prove that it’s less about the height and more about the size of your heart.”

Youth and inexperience were the two main factors detractors pinpoint to dismiss UST as a title contender. Before the season began, many believed the Tigresses didn’t have enough veterans to spearhead a realistic championship push.

But for Detdet, youth isn’t necessarily a bug, as it is a feature. Asked what she thinks makes UST an exceptional team despite the odds: “I think it’s because we have more youngsters,” the 21-year-old libero answered. “We have more fresh legs.”

“Even though they’re new to the system, they were quick to adapt to it. That’s what I think is unique about this season,” she added.

The UST system

UST head coach
Head coach Kungfu Reyes

Kungfu Reyes has seen stars come and go as the Tigresses’ head tactician since 2015. Being at the helm for so long, Reyes attributes the team’s consistency to the school’s volleyball program.

“Actually, this is what we’re most proud of,” Reyes said in Filipino. “The program that we have in UST—our grassroots program—we’re always developing players.”

“However, it just so happened that our pieces were able to align this time. During Eya’s time, the youngest was Regina [Jurado] … Now, Detdet is the team’s senior and she’s in her third year,” he said.

“So now we have Reg and Jona [Perdido] whose timelines are aligned. I really think it’s the UST program that made this all happen.”

Fourth straight Final Four

Cassie Carballo and Jonna Perdido

UST found itself contending for another title for the fourth consecutive season.

They became the first team to book a Final Four berth despite losing star power with the departure of veterans Eya Laure, Imee Hernandez, and Milena Alessandrini.

The Golden Tigresses can strengthen their title hopes by securing a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four. They’d need to maintain their vice-grip on the No. 1 spot to do that.

De La Salle University (8-1) and National University (8-2) are the only credible threats to toppling UST from the top of the standings. With only a few games remaining in the elimination round, DLSU and NU are likely to join UST in the Final Four.

That leaves one more spot for Ateneo de Manila University (3-7), Adamson (2-7), University of the East (2-7), and University of the Philippines (1-9) to contend over. 

After defying the odds and—admittedly—even their own expectations, a championship may be on the horizon for the young scrappy Thomasians. With four elimination games to go, “Mini Miss UST” has her eyes firmly set on the crown.

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