Photo by: Flavius Dulce
The three-time defending champs De La Salle University Lady Spikers came out the gate firing with a 3-0 streak to begin UAAP Season 81. But last Saturday, the winning run ended after DLSU succumbed to the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons in five nail-biting sets.
Before we talk about last night’s stunning defeat, let’s first back-track a bit on La Salle’s 3-0 start:
The Taft squad opened its campaign with an imposing four-set victory over bitter rivals Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles. Everything looked well for the four-peat-seeking crew. Next, the girls still showed no signs of slowing down as they cruised past the Adamson University Lady Falcons via a sweep. In their third game, the Lady Spikers grinded out a win against the young National University Lady Bulldogs led by fearless rookie Cess Robles. DLSU committed 25 errors against against NU. 14 of those were from one of the areas where they put premium on: service line. That’s giving one free set to the opponents. With the dismal performance, I knew that Coach Ramil would not let his team get away with it. Later that night. the multi-titled mentor had the ladies practice their serving back at the Razon Sports Complex in DLSU.
Then came the anticipated match-up vs the Lady Maroons. Isa Molde and Tots Carlos were heroic against the Lady Spikers scoring 20 and 19 points, respectively. The supporting cast also covered for the Diliman crew. Maristela Layug chipped in 11 points, Arielle Estranero dished out 38 excellent sets, while Remeln Altomea tallied 20 excellent digs. Everyone clicked for the Lady Maroons as they repeatedly fought back throughout the match to put stain on DLSU’s erstwhile immaculate record.
On the flip side, La Salle looked better with the serves. It won 11 points against UP’s 7. The Lady Spikers’ solid serving did damage whether it was an ace or it disrupted the defense, but they still committed 37 costly errors, 12 more miscues than the 25 they had against National U.
Were they shooting themselves on the foot in the last two games? Did they fall to the Lady Maroons only because of the errors? Yes and No.
The hard-earned win vs the Lady Bulldogs was a warning for La Salle. The spikers from Jhocson played their best game yet to give DLSU a run for its money. To be fair, the Lady Spikers had an off-night and they really did not look like themselves that game. Good thing for Coach De Jesus and his wards, talent and composure brought them to the top. Still, that was a sign that a loss was just lurking behind them.
Contra UP, the loss I saw coming finally arrived. Let’s highlight the 37 errors. We could pin the blame on that. However, the major reason why the Philippine Superliga Collegiate Grand Slam champs won was because of their hunger. The Lady Maroons just wanted it more. They played harder and simply looked like the better team. Numerous times they were down, but every time Coach Godfrey Okumu called a timeout, his squad responded and turned things around. And from here I’m going to echo what Coach Ramil said during the post-game presscon, “Mas gusto ng kalaban manalo kaya sabi ko sa kanila iyon ‘yung naging factor, mas ginusto nila manalo.”
All was not bad for DLSU in that defeat though. The challenge from UP throughout the game scratched the surface of the former’s character as a team. May Luna, who struggled early in the match due to the mask she was wearing, redeemed herself in the last two sets. Jolina Dela Cruz played like a vet as she provided points in the crucial moments when needed. The Palarong Pambansa standout was also stellar on defense with her breathtaking saves, while Team Captain Des Cheng, although having to earn every point she scored, displayed leadership to keep her teammates’ heads above water. Second, remember that La Salle is a rebuilding team. Chemistry is still not fluid with Des Clemente and the young guns coming into the picture. It lost MVPs in Kianny Dy and MaJoy Baron and five-star libero Dawn Macandili. Compare that to an intact UP squad. More than the loss, the Lady Spikers are still at the top with a 3-1 card, sharing first place with UP. Again, the Lady Maroons wanted it more. The foes came out victorious, but it did not sting too much because it’s a learning curve for the green side.
La Salle should thank UP for the loss. It should serve as a reality check that all teams will bring their A-game because they are the reigning and defending champions for three years now. It should serve as a reminder that they always have to be consistent no matter who they are up against. It should serve as a wake-up call for the team to play like champions every game.
Elimination round losses are not new to the Lady Spikers. Better to lose early, right?
All I know is that when they lose, Coach RDJ and his players bounce back hard. I believe that this chapter is still part of the same story that has been running for three years.
This is a different lineup altogether, but say it with me: In Coach Ramil We Trust.