Bella Belen, NU look to stop Angel Canino-led La Salle challenge in UAA Finals showdown
MANILA, Philippines — Determined to lead National University to its second straight UAAP women’s volleyball title, Bella Belen braces for a Finals rematch with La Salle led by super rookie Angel Canino, who ended their dynasty in high school.
Reigning MVP Belen unleashed a career-high 29 points to set NU’s Season 85 championship showdown against La Salle after eliminating Adamson, 22-25, 25-22, 25-12, 25-15, in the Final Four on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum .
But compared to their perfect 16-0 campaign that ended a 65-year title drought last season, the road to repeat is tougher for the Lady Bulldogs against the Lady Spikers, who swept them in two games without dropping a set in the elimination round.
Standing in the way of NU’s title-retention bid is La Salle star Canino, who shattered Belen and Co’s ‘five-peat’ bid in high school back in 2018.
For Belen, their second finals series against La Salle could be their chance to get back at Canino and keep NU’s crown.
“Paghahandaan po namin yung finals matchup na ito lalo na yung kay Angel nga po, nakalaban namin siya before and hindi naging maganda yung result para sa amin,” said Belen after 22 spikes, five blocks, and two aces to go with 19 excellent receptions against Adamson.
“Siguro para samin na makabawi and mapakita yung school pride talaga namin. And mapakita sa buong UAAP community na gusto namin manalo this season. Hindi kami papayag na maagaw samin ang korona,” she added.
(We will prepare for this final matchup especially for Angel because we went up against her before and the result wasn’t good for us. It’s our chance to redeem ourselves and show the whole UAAP community that we want to win this season and we won ‘t let others take our crown.)
The 20-year-old outside spiker said they need to go back to the drawing board to improve their game and scout every detail of La Salle’s tactics as they haven’t beaten Canino and the Lady Spikers this season.
“For me, this is the finals. It’s a different story. We lost in the first and second rounds but it’s already done. In the finals, we’re back to zero,” said Belen in Filipino. “It will all boil down to who wants to win more this season. Our mindset is to stick to our system and fight as a team.”
Belen admitted the level of competition became harder for the Lady Bulldogs this year after losing twice to La Salle and falling to University of Santo Tomas in the first round.
But those heartbreaking setbacks taught them lessons and prepared them for their bid to retain the crown.
“It wasn’t easy like last season. The feeling of those losses we will bring it to the finals,” said Belen. “We’re thankful it happened before because we experienced how painful to lose and we don’t want to feel that again.”
Belen and the Lady Bulldogs start their best-of-three Finals series against the Canino-led Lady Spikers on Sunday at the Big Dome, 4 pm
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