The Fighting Maroons are motivated to bounce back from a tough season.
After an underwhelming performance in UAAP Season 85, the UP Fighting Maroons knew things had to change.
It’s been seven seasons since the Fighting Maroons last made the Final Four, but the Diliman-based squad is hoping that this Season 86 could be the year to return.
After all, the team’s core heading into the new season is still intact with a new and improved system.
Head coach: Oliver Almadro
Key losses: Alyssa Bertolano, Ethan Arce
Key returnees: Nica Celis, Nina Ytang, Abi Goc, Jewel Encarnacion
Season 85 record: 1-13 (7th place)
With the addition of coach Oliver Almadro to the team, the experienced tactician is expected to lead the revamped Fighting Maroons to greater glory in the upcoming season.
The goal is clear for Almadro—to create a winning culture with UP.
“I have a new challenge, a mission, but I accept this as a blessing also that I can again inspire and bring my wisdom and a little bit of my talent to the UP community,” said Almadro.
And despite being with the team for just a short period, Almadro is already finding UP’s personality a perfect fit with his.
“Para sa akin, 'yung aura kasi ng team is very good for my personality. They're open and alam nating UP matatapang and that's what's my philosophy also [is] to be courageous,” said Almadro.
Aside from their core players returning for Season 86, the Fighting Maroons also brought in several prized recruits such as 2023 Palarong Pambansa Most Valuable Player Jothea Ramos and CESAFI juniors champion Joanneesse Perez.
But will the team have enough time to gel come the tournament itself? That’s something even Season 85 2nd Best Middle Blocker Nina Ytang is hoping that they can achieve.
“Parang nag back-to-zero talaga kami kasi after last season parang nag-rest kami ng ilang months kasi wala pa kaming coaches and all. Kaya ngayon 'yung from zero to process na siya, nagpro-progress na kahit papaano. So, parang starting pa talaga siya ngayon. Sinusubukan namin maging buo 'yung team,” said Ytang.
A second-place finish in the recently-concluded 2024 Unigames Dipolog should be a step in the right direction for the Fighting Maroons.
As for how they’ll perform in Season 86, that’s anybody’s guess. But as the saying goes, there’s nowhere to go but up.
[ALSO READ: Fight for their way: Team captain Abi Goc and UP in it to win it in UAAP Season 86]