University of the Philippines coach Godfrey Okumu walked inside the Filoil Flying V Centre press room in a daze.
He sat down on a monobloc chair facing the media and gathered himself to let what had just transpired sink in.
Okumu, obviously, needed more time to absorb everything.
“Wow,” said an overwhelmed Okumu, who was left speechless moments after the Lady Maroons orchestrated one of the greatest comebacks in Philippine volleyball in recent memory to clinch the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference championship on Wednesday night.
It was UP’s first major volleyball title in 36 years and it took an improbable run that only these resolute Lady Maroons could pull off.
A winner-take-all Game 3 was imminent after Far Eastern University, which also mounted a spirited rally of its own down two sets to none and trailing, 5-13, in the third set, zoomed to a commanding 13-7 advantage.
But the Lady Maroons proved that no lead is insurmountable as long as there is a strong belief it can be conquered.
Despite the odds, Okumu never doubted his players, who, led by veteran stars Ayel Estranero and Isa Molde, delivered and rewarded their coach.
“I kept saying we can this today. There’s no tomorrow, ” said Okumu, who has transformed the Lady Maroons to become a champion team in just a year since taking over the team following the resignation of Jerry Yee.
“We talked at the start of the fifth set about how much do we want to win. In order for us to get the championship, all of us need to want it that’s why everyone actually never gave up until the end,” said Estranero, who made the title-clinching service ace.
Estranero and Molde combined for six of the Lady Maroons’ last eight points, but for them, it takes a team to win a championship.
“Isa won’t be able to score if no one’s going to defend, I won’t be able to set if no one’s going to play defense. It was a collective effort from everyone, from the coaches, the players even those on the bench,” Estranero said.
UP rose from 7-13 down in the fifth set to seize a historic crown and Okumu couldn’t have put it any better.
“Miracles happen. This is one of those volleyball miracles.”
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