Bella Belen, NU brace for tough UAAP title defense
MANILA, Philippines — Bella Belen is far from satisfied despite making history last season as the first rookie MVP in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament after leading National University to its first league title in 65 years.
Belen and the Lady Bulldogs open their title defense against Ateneo on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena wary of the tough challenge ahead.
“When we went to Australia [to celebrate our championship], we ate a bit too much. So I told myself before the season, I need to be fit,” Belen told the reporters in Filipino. “It feels better to be fit. I feel lighter because we all know that all the teams are more ready this season so we need to be more ready.”
The Lady Bulldogs dominated Season 84 with a 16-game sweep, followed by a perfect title run in the Shakey’s Super League in November.
Despite going undefeated, it’s never easy to win a title. Defending the throne, however, presents an entirely different challenge with the Lady Bulldogs having big targets on their backs this time as far as NU coach Karl Dimacalangan is concerned.
“Coach Karl told us that it’s harder to defend a crown because everyone wants to beat us. So we focused on ourselves to give our best every game, stick to our coaches’ system, and apply our training in games,” said Belen.
Belen said the team’s mindset is to stay hungry as they aim to reach even greater heights.
“We’re not complacent despite sweeping last season. Our mindset is to surpass our previous performance from last season,” said Belen, the reigning Best Outside Hitter. “That’s why we decided to go to Japan to level up our game and every training we’re trying to improve.”
“Our tune-up in Japan against its best college team. We’re very thankful because we’re able to adopt their speed. We will bring it this season,” she added, referring to NU’s training camp in Japan in December.
Belen can’t wait to see NU’s rookies, led by Vangie Alinsug, in action against the Faith Nisperos-led Blue Eagles, who placed third last season.
“We’re excited for our rookies to showcase their talents and help us in defending our crown this season,” she said.
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