Bella Belen Continues to Shine for NU Lady Bulldogs in Preseason Dominance
MANILA, Philippines — National University was pushed to the limits by the young but gritty University of Santo Tomas but Bella Belen was there to show her never-give-up attitude to lead the Lady Bulldogs to another perfect Shakey’s Super League (SSL) Pre-Season Championship run.
When UST threatened to force a fifth set with a 16-13 lead, Belen came to the rescue and delivered the finishing blows in the fourth to complete a hard-earned 25-17, 15-25, 25-20, 25-20 victory in Finals Game 2 on Saturday evening at Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
Belen, named as 1st Best Outside Hitter of the tournament, scored five straight attacks in the fourth to give her team a 21-17 lead that allowed the Lady Bulldogs to pull away and complete a 10-game sweep.
“When UST was leading, I always believed that the game is not yet done until someone reaches 25. We just had to hang tight and I needed to show my teammates that we need to keep on fighting because the game was not yet over,” said Belen in Filipino after leading the way with 17 points all coming from attacks.
NU coach Norman Miguel knew that Belen would step up when it mattered most.
“I really admire Belle’s volleyball IQ and maturity. My confidence in her game will never change. I expected that she would [take charge] because she can really carry our team,” said Miguel in Filipino.
Belen lauded the Golden Tigresses, who dealt their only two set losses in 10 games in the tournament, believing they remain a threat in the UAAP despite losing Eya Laure, Imee Hernandez, and Milena Alessandrini.
“I’m super proud of UST, especially for Detdet [Pepito] because they gave their best and they pushed our best. I think UST improved a lot and they performed well today but we wanted it more,” she said.
Despite sweeping the preseason championship for the second straight time with an 18-game winning streak, the first UAAP women’s volleyball rookie MVP said they still have a lot to improve as their main mission is to reclaim the championship they lost to La Salle in Season 85 last May.
“I think even though we swept the SSL, we still have a lot to improve and the best is yet to come for our team. Our opponents have improved so we can’t be content wherever we are right now,” said Belen. “We will go back to training for UAAP after a short rest. La Salle won last time so we have to double our efforts.”
Belen is grateful for NU’s national team experience after playing in two international tournaments before the SSL.
“It was a big help for us because we learned a lot from playing on the international stage. We’re thankful that most of our teammates played so all of us were able to bring our learnings here in the SSL,” Belen said.