Nico Almendras arrived late for the 2023 Spikers' Turf Invitational Conference, but when National U-Sta. Elena needed him the most, he answered the call.
In addition to demonstrating leadership skills both on and off the court, the 24-year-old spiker left a significant impact by contributing on the offensive side, especially in the crucial fourth and fifth sets. This contribution helped the Nationals secure the championship over Cignal with a score of 22-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-22, 15-8 on Friday night at the Filoil EcoOil Centre.
During the knockout title match, Almendras showcased why he is considered one of the league's top spikers, scoring 20 points with 17 attacks, two blocks, and one ace. He also excelled on the defensive end with 22 excellent receptions and five digs.
The victory was particularly sweet because he needed to catch up with the team after joining late, with Coach Dante Alinsunurin allowing him to rest.
"I'm very happy because even though I didn't perform in our first games, now I've caught up in condition, Coach Dante trusted me again inside, and I'm part of the starting six again," said the Batangas native.
However, unlike NU setter Joshua Retamar, he has not committed to NU for the upcoming UAAP Season 86 in February next year.
And he's keeping it a secret whether he will return to Jhocson, even though he has already obtained his bachelor's degree this year.
"Perhaps it's a surprise whether I'll come back or not. Surprise!" said the 6-foot-3 open spiker who was crucial to NU's championship back in UAAP Season 85.
Despite the surprise, Almendras also shared that he hopes he and the rest of the Bulldogs can carry this confidence into the next league they will join.
The UAAP men's volleyball tournament will likely start in February 2024.
"We're very happy as a team because we'll carry this wherever we go in the next league," said Almendras.