Unlike most of the nation whose attention was fixated in a boxing event held in Macau, the highlight of my Sunday was actually the first game of the DLSU Lady Spikers in Season 77. So forgive me for initially feeling a little bit disappointed by the lackluster and error-prone play of La Salle in the first two sets against the Adamson Lady Falcons.
If it weren’t for the inspired play of Season 76 Best Setter Kim Fajardo, the Lady Spikers would not have rallied from a 16-21 deficit to take the first set 25-23.
Despite giving up a 1-0 set lead, the Lady Falcons were still brimming with confidence as the La Salle defence could not stop the attacks of senior Amanda Villanueva and Jessica Galanza. Despite having the smaller line-up, Adamson doubled the attacking output of the Lady Spikers, 16-8, take the second set, 26-24 and tie the game at one set a piece.
Each Cruz twin seemed to channel the scoring (Camille) and the receiving (Cienne) abilities that made their big sister a La Salle volleyball legend.
The Taft-based squad actually trailed during all four technical timeouts of the first two frames by committing 16 of their total 23 errors.
Add the next two sets to coach Ramil de Jesus’ manual of mid-game adjustments. Focusing the defence on Villanueva and Galarza, receiving the ball batter and limiting their errors, the eight-time UAAP volleyball champions showed what they are capable of doing when all cylinders are clicking.
Imposing their will and playing on a higher level that is expected of them, the Lady Spikers recovered from a measly eight-point, nine-error second set to score 14 and 20 attack points in the third and fourth frames while limiting their errors to a combined seven.
The evolution of Ara Galang
27 points, 5 blocks and 8 excellent digs, what else could you ask for from Ara Galang? As if to answer the question on people’s minds on who should fill the shoes of Aby Maraño, the current Lady Spikers team captain quietly made her presence felt on both ends of the game.
Known for her down-the-line and cross-court hits, the Season 75 MVP even displayed a new weapon on her arsenal, a back row attack that the Lady Falcons had no answer to. While not as loud and possessing none of the “Beast Mode” that Maraño was known for, it will be a challenge for 4th year outside hitter both carry and provide leadership to this year’s version of the Lady Spikers.
Coach Ramil’s shock troopers
I could still recall the moment three years ago when then-promising rookie Camille Cruz landed awkwardly and tore her ACL; forcing her to miss the rest of the season and ending a chance to play a whole season with her graduating big sister, Charleen Cruz.
Making up for missing Season 75 and getting limited playing time during last season, the younger Cruz came off the bench to score 10 points from nine spikes. The third-year outside hitter’s quiet demeanor was a complete contrast to her loud attacks. With all eyes on Galang, Mika Reyes and Fajardo, Cruz’s high kill rate (9/20, 45%) was surprise package that the Lady Falcons and their head coach Sherwin Meneses never expected.
Equally effective was the libero play of twin sister Cienne Cruz, who took over the defensive specialist duties from starter Dawn Macandili in the middle of the second set. For the last two sets, each Cruz twin seemed to channel the scoring (Camille) and the receiving (Cienne) abilities that made their big sister a La Salle volleyball legend.
The volleyball season is still in its early stages. While there are still areas on offense and defence to improve on, one thing the team can learn from last year’s epic finals collapse is that there is such a thing as peaking at the right time. Another lesson is to develop the younger players so that the trio of Galang, Reyes and Fajardo do not get overused and over-fatigued by the time the playoffs start.
Animo La Salle!