Game 4 Preview: Lady Spikers’ poise and experience to be tested in their “winner-take-all” battle vs Ateneo

The only way to win the championship is to focus on winning a point at a time. We have to want to win each point, and do what it takes to win that point. As Coach Ramil famously said, there are no 3pointers in volleyball. Each point is, well, one point. There are no shortcuts to victory. A team cannot assume that they can just turn on their game like a switch.

So what do the Lady Spikers have to do on Saturday? Their reception was not as solid, so they will have to concentrate on the first ball by a good reception of Ateneo’s serves, because that’s where it all starts; a good reception and sending it to the setter in good position will allow the setter to deliver a good set to a teammate; a scrambling set more often than not forces a soft 3rd ball. On defense, the blockers will have to read the opponents’ moves better, and our floor defenders will have to watch the open angles and gaps the blockers may leave.

On offense, the tables appear have to turned, at least last Wednesday. We became predictable, while Ateneo’s offense has become varied and harder to read. In Game 3, our offensive thrusts appeared to be concentrated on our open spikers Ara and Cyd, while our middles and utility didn’t get that many plays called for them. What’s the basis for this? Out of our 109 points (we actually outscored Ateneo 109-101), 39 (!!!) came from Ateneo errors (we had 29), and our players managed to score 70 points by their own efforts. Of those 70 points, 40 came from our opens, Ara with 28 and Cyd with 12. Mika had 11 (only a max of 7 on attacks because she had 4 blocks) and Abi had only 8. They’re probably good for more than just 19 points in a 5-set game. Utility Cheng had only 3, too few to be considered as a threat by the opponents, so they probably won’t bother pay too much defensive attention on her. From an armchair observer perspective, we are now easier to guard because many of our points will come from sets to Ara and Cyd. We are more predictable, and that’s what happened last Wednesday.

How predictable? Ateneo’s not that good as a blocking team, yet they had 14 against us in Game 3 (we had 17). How’d Ateneo get that many? By reading our offensive plays. By being able to predict to which of our players the ball would go. Our deception wasn’t good enough. Also, our first-ball reception wasn’t that good, so the setter had to struggle to deliver good passes to our attackers.

Will our team recover and conquer Ateneo on Saturday? Ateneo’s morale will be at an all-time high, and they have the momentum. Our current crop of players hasn’t been in a do-or-die situation in recent seasons, this is a first for them. But they’re tough, smart, and can grind out a win. They just have to want it more. And I think they do.

4peat on Saturday!