Young NU gets early test

Joseph Bello and the National University-Archipelago Builders kick off their title retention campaign in the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference. Photo courtesy of Spikers’ Turf

National University-Archipelago Builders’ young stars get an early test when they take on a newcomer but veteran-laden Vanguard side to open their title-retention bid in the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference on Wednesday at the Paco Arena in Manila.

With most of its championship core unavailable due to its commitment to the University Athletic Association of the Philippines, NU will be fielding new faces in the 6 p.m. main game of the double-header playdate.

Battling out in the 4 p.m. curtain-raiser are returning team Air Force and another newcomer D’ Navigators-Iloilo.

“Of course, we expect tough competition. I think we have the youngest team as our UAAP players won’t be able to compete. We’re hoping we can compete against other seasoned teams,” NU assistant coach Dong Dela Cruz said.

The Bulldogs will be missing the services of veterans Nico Almendras, playmaker Owa Retamar and young guns Obed Mukaba and Michaelo Buddin.

It will be team captain and setter Joseph Bello’s turn to lead the Bulldogs, who stunned star-studded Cignal to claim the conference title last season in the league’s return after a three-year pandemic hiatus.

Backing Bello, who skipped the 2022 edition of the Open Conference but played for NU in its V-League championship run, are holdovers from last year’s squad bannered by Ahmad Abdul, libero Mario Maclang and Mac Bandola.

Also joining the Bulldogs are Rwenzmel Taguibolos, Bryan Jaleco, Leo Ordiales, Rhoy Parce, Jan Abanilla, Zulrich Gonzalez, Michael Hernandez, Joelbert Doromal, John Estrada and Edgar Florescan.

The Bulldogs are in for a baptism of fire as they will be facing a Volley Hitters side boasting seasoned players.

Experience will be the biggest advantage of the Edjet Mabbayad-mentored Vanguards.

“Vanguard is a new team but we’re ready to play and we’re here to show our talents,” he said.

Skipper Ron Villegas is surrounded by other grizzled veterans Rochette Villegas, Ruvince Abrot, John Diwa, Joven Camaganakan and John Carlo Desuyo.

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