May 29, 2024

Season 72 champions Angeli Tabaquero and Maru Banaticla pin hopes on Season 86 UST Tigresses to follow lead as UAAP queens

Season 72 champions Angeli Tabaquero and Maru Banaticla pin hopes on Season 86 UST Tigresses to follow lead as UAAP queens
Season 72 champions Angeli Tabaquero and Maru Banaticla are hopeful that the time is now for UST to win the UAAP again. Art by Mitzi Solano/One Sports

2010 was indeed a memorable year. 


The songs “Bad Romance” and “California Gurls” were chart-toppers. Team Edward versus Team Jacob was the most heated debate among Twilight fans. "My Amnesia Girl," "Miss You Like Crazy," and "Petrang Kabayo" were the most successful films at the box office. 


But for the UST community, 2010 was particularly special—a time they would always remember as the “championship year” of the UST women’s volleyball team.


Led by veteran Angeli Tabaquero, team captain Aiza Maizo, and by then-Finals MVP Rhea Dimaculangan, the Golden Tigresses swept the defending champions De La Salle University Lady Spikers in the UAAP Finals, clinching their 16th championship.





As men’s basketball and women’s volleyball continue to be the most popular UAAP Sports, 2010 remains as UST sports’ most recent crown jewel. 


“Dalawa lang kami ni Aiza na senior players noong season 72. ‘Yung experience namin leading the team was not difficult because I can say na we were all on the same page. Lahat gusto manalo, lahat willing to put in the work and sacrifice,” Tabaquero told One Sports in an email. 


“Ako naman every time I step inside the playing court, I try my best to lead by example. Maging vocal, making sure na more than 100% ‘yung ginagawa ko and I think by doing that, mas na-encourage ko mga younger teammates ko to do the same thing,” she added.


Among Angeli’s younger teammates during the Season 72 title run was Maru Banaticla, who entered the team as a rookie in 2010 together with Dindin Santiago.



Maru fondly remembered their championship run as challenging yet rewarding experience, especially since it was capped by an upset of La Salle, the known UAAP power at the time led by veterans Stephanie Mercado, Jacq Alarca, and Cha Cruz.


“We all know naman, kapag DLSU team, powerhouse team siya. Parang 'yung eagerness mo to win, to play, so every time na kaharap mo sila parang 'yun at 'yun ang iyong motivation na maipanalo,” said Banaticla in an exclusive interview with One Sports.


“Noong nanalo kami, sobrang saya. 'Yun lahat ng pagod, 'yung lahat ng effort during trainings, nag-paid off siya. And at the same time, another trophy for UST,” she added.



As the winningest team in the Final Four era, DLSU is a natural rival for all UAAP contenders.


And it’s no surprise that the Season 86 Golden Tigresses had to go through the Lady Spikers to have their shot at this year’s UAAP crown.


For Tabaquero, who won two championships with UST, the similarities in their championship team with the current UST lineup are evident.


“Bukod sa high level of physical fitness ng mga players, it’s more on the intangibles,” she said.


“‘Yung hungriness inside the court, resilience, fighting spirit, and maturity ng mga girls,” added Tabaquero, who now works as a volleyball coach in Doha, Qatar. 


Meanwhile, Banaticla could not help but turn emotional about the development surrounding star rookie Angge Poyos, who got injured in set 2 of Game 1 over the weekend.


In Season 73, Maru likewise suffered an injury during Game 1 of the Finals against the Lady Spikers, a series De La Salle ultimately won to regain the UAAP championship.


“Noong na-injure si Angge, medyo [nasaktan] din ako. Kasi I know the feeling na hindi makalaro ng championship. Yung cramps ko, umaabot dito sa tyan. Wala akong control over my body. Na-ospital ako after noon,” said Banaticla.



“Tandang tanda ko pa 'yun. Birthday ko pa 'yun na sobrang excited akong maglaro. Eh wala, nag-cramps ako,” she added.


The cruel fate for key Tigresses in the Finals have been somewhat of an unfortunate tradition.


[Related: "Flash back" | Eya Laure turns emotional over UST rookie Angge Poyos’ injury in UAAP Game 1 Finals]


In 2019 during the previous UST Finals team, the Golden Tigresses also suffered a major setback in the Finals after then rookie Eya Laure suffered an ankle injury in Game 2 against Ateneo.


UST lost the game and the series.



Despite these setbacks, Banaticla believes UST can still break this so-called “curse” if other key starters in Jonna Perdido, Regina Jurado, Em Banagua, and Bianca Plaza step up.  


“Sobrang palaban talaga nila. ‘Mini Miss UST’ nga kung tawagin. So 'yung mga players natin ngayon, kahit sobrang liliit, pero iba talaga sila kung lumaban, sobrang laki talaga ng puso nila,” Banaticla said.


Tabaquero, meanwhile, urged the current UST team to use their Game 1 loss as motivation to win the next game. 


“It’s unfortunate na magkaron ng injuries sa crucial matches lalo na kapag top gun pa. But it’s a situation na that we cannot control. Like I said sa mga bata before the season started, when things aren’t going your way balikan nila ‘yung “why” nila. It’s time for the players, Si Abellana man or Gula to step it up,” she said.


“Maging smart sa attack options because ang blockers ng NU bukod sa height advantage, they’re aggressive. Use the block to your advantage, walang matangkad na blocker sa spiker na matalino,” Tabaquero added.


Despite the odds, both Tabaquero and Banaticla believe UST has one significant advantage over NU Lady Bulldogs: the crowd. 


“Sobrang iba talagang magmahal 'yung UST community. Literal na through highs and lows, nandyan ang UST community. Nandyan pa rin sila. I hope ibigay natin 'yung loudest roar natin. Let's pray na maipanalo natin ang Game 2 and 3,” Banaticla said. 


Game 2 of the UAAP Season 86 Finals between the UST Golden Tigresses and the NU Lady Bulldogs is set for Wednesday, May 15 at 4:00 p.m. LIVE from the MOA Arena. NU leads the series, 1-0.