Blazers glued on Final Four

Making it to the Final Four will be the ultimate objective when College of Saint Benilde competes in Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s volleyball tournament starting 10 September.

Blazers head coach Charles Tiu said they may have a small roster, but they will definitely play their hearts out to finally advance to the semifinals after two decades of absence.

In fact, things are looking bright for the Blazers.

After reaching the quarterfinals of the Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup last week, they put up a gallant stand against powerhouse Bay Area Dragons over the weekend, giving Tiu a reason to hope despite the departure of top gun AJ Benson.

With Benson out, the Blazers will bank on veterans Robi Nayve, Prince Carlos, Macoy Ramos and Will Gozum, who emerged as part of the NCAA Mythical and Defensive Team in Season 97.

“We’re a bit smaller. We lost AJ while Ladis Lepalam is still recovering from his wrist injury so we’re not as big as we used to. It will be a challenge for us. Hopefully, we will be able to tougher and rebound the ball better,” Tiu said.

“Hopefully, we’ll try to be a little bit faster and make our shots.”

Tiu said facing an elite professional team like the Dragons gave them a chance to tweak their strategies with still two weeks left before the season formally unwraps.

“We’re happy we got to play with them. It was a good experience. They’re a good team and they’re very well-coached. It’s a big deal for us to play in other leagues and get tune-up matches,” Tiu said.

“I’ll give it to the guys, they played hard against Bay Area. Even the coaches from the other team told us we played hard but comparing us to a pro team, there’s a lack of talent. We couldn’t make shots and we have to be tougher defensively.”

The Blazers piled a 5-4 record in the eliminations to move a heartbeat away from making it to the semifinals last season.

But they fell short in the
play-in format after suffering a 57-63 loss to San Beda University for the third Final Four spot before absorbing a 64-76 defeat to University of Perpetual Help System Dalta.

Although the league will revert to the original double round robin format, Tiu admitted that making it to the semis will not be easy.

“It’s good. It’s a long season and it gives us time to improve as a team. It’s also going to be a bit harder,” Tiu said.

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