May 24, 2024

UAAP: Rookie Pling Baclay fills big shoes in UP’s crucial victory over UE

UAAP: Rookie Pling Baclay fills big shoes in UP’s crucial victory over UE
Pling Baclay shines on the defensive end for the UP Fighting Maroons in their four-set victory over the UE Lady Warriors. | Photo (c) RM Chua/One Sports

The UP Fighting Maroons may have found another gem in their team after the breakout performance of rookie Pling Baclay.

Baclay finished with 10 points, built on two attacks and a season-high seven blocks to help UP end its 17-game losing skid, dating back to Season 85, with a four-set victory over the UE Lady Warriors.

Usually coming off the bench, the Fighting Maroons rookie was inserted into the starting lineup to fill in the shoes of reigning Best Middle Blocker Niña Ytang, who missed the game to mourn the death of her mother.

“Thankful po ako kela coach na pinagkatiwalaan po ako nila this time. Knowing na wala si ate Niña, parang nasa isip ko kailangan ko mag-step up sa team para maipakita ko kung paano si ate Niña sa court and magawa ko kung anong mga ginagawa niya,” Baclay said during the post-game press conference.

Coach Oliver Almadro, who celebrated his inaugural victory as UP’s head coach, expressed his pride for his newcomer after displaying confidence and composure in her debut as a starter.

“We’re proud, proud kami as a rookie na mapa-ngiti ngiti. Pagdating kasi sa kanya nagha-hard work, pangiti-ngiti lang, hindi natatakot mahirapan. Responsable siya kung ano magiging [role],” said Almadro.

“[She’s] hard working and napaka saya namin kasi nga nabigyan siya ng opportunity and she took the responsibility, big shoes to fill in, pero as a rookie hindi siya natakot. ‘Yun naman ang meron yung UP, laban lang and yung faith, will and desire magdeliver nandon, so thank you (Pling).” he added.

[ALSO READ: UAAP: Oliver Almadro bares UP's motivations for inspired breakthrough win in Season 86]

Baclay, a graduate of the Naga College Foundation, also couldn’t help but express her excitement and gratitude for the backing she's received from her teammates, coaches, and the UP community.

For her, this serves as ongoing motivation to demonstrate the abilities of a Bicolana and consistently improve her performance throughout her young UAAP journey.

“Nakaka-overwhelm yun kasi maraming nagsasabi na from Naga daw. Namo-motivate ako in that way na madaming nagpupush sa akin na go lang, push pa next game mas naging matapang ako,” said Baclay.

With Ytang expected to return to UP in the coming games, Almadro will have a “good problem” in deciding which middle blocker to field in the match.

The Fighting Maroons will open the second round hoping to upset the NU Lady Bulldogs on Wednesday, March 20 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City at 2:00 p.m.