Greenstincts: What we’ve learned from the Lady Spikers’ win versus UP

Early in the season, I had a notion that the UP Lady Maroons, with their fantastic, do-everything rookies and sophomores, solid coaching, and renewed winning culture, could be a dangerous team in one to two years. The first set of yesterday’s second round meeting of DLSU and UP could have been a preview of the future of the UAAP women’s volleyball but the next sets were proof that the Lady Spikers and the La Salle system remain as one of the gold standards in the league.

The 18-25, 25-12, 25-18, 25-21 win not only gave La Salle its eight win against two losses (NU and UST), but also gave some interesting points to ponder this Season 78.

Dangerous when motivated
Facing an overachieving and hyped-up squad in the Lady Maroons, the La Salle six quickly built a 4-0 lead in the first set, forcing UP head coach Jerry Yee to call a timeout to settle his troops. Despite misfiring in the first frame, the Lady Spikers quickly tightened their game in the following set, building leads as big as 17 (24-7) to wrest momentum and control of the game.

In Saturday’s straight sets win against UST and even against the confidence-building, first round victory against the two-time defending champion Ateneo Lady Eagles, it does seem that Ara Galang and company like to play with chips on their shoulders. Like fuel to their fire, the first round loss to UST and two-year finals losses to Ateneo keeps the Lady Spikers’ Animo burning for Season 78.

Team’s future looks bright…
Third-year player Kim Kianna Dy, together with Mika Reyes (five service aces) led the team in scoring with 14 points each, while improving middle blocker Majoy Baron had eight points, including three from blocks. I particularly loved how effective La Salle’s combination plays, where either Mika or Majoy would play decoy to a drawn-up Dy attack. Yesterday was the third time in the last three games, that KKD led the team in double-digit scoring, all DLSU wins.

… but Galang still remains the team’s closer
Leading 21-20 in the fourth set, Ara’s number was called four consecutive times and she delivered with the winning points for the four-set win. Two kills made the score 23-20, while a well-placed, off-speed hit gave DLSU match point. Enough though Galang’s last hit was received by the UP defense, the Lady Maroons were not able to mound an attack to extend the set and the game.

Ready for the playoffs
Almost treating yesterday’s match like a playoff game, coach Ramil de Jesus utilize only seven players; relying on the experiences of Ara, Mika Reyes, Cyd Demicillo, and Kim Fajardo together with KKD, Majoy, and libero Dawn Macandili to counter UP’s youthful energy and hard-hitting play.

The league’s most experienced team did not disappoint their coach as the Lady Spikers held their nerves better during the crucial points of each set, and committing less errors (31-35) than their Katipunan counterparts. With Cyd’s knee injury remaining uncertain as of writing, DLSU’s next matches against the Adamson Lady Falcons and UE Lady Warriors should give the La Salle rookies and bench players enough playing time and chances to step up.

UP super rookies
With three rookie and two sophomore starters, the Lady Maroons have already overachieved everyone’s expectations, toting a 6-4 win loss record including a four-set upset of the Lady Eagles 11 days ago. Playoff performance and results, however, will determine if this set of UP players would resemble a championship contender or underachieve like Ateneo’s “Fab Five.”

Rookies Diana Carlos, Isa Molde, and Marian Buitre are displaying skillful and fearless plays but the team does not have a go-to player in the mold of an Alyssa Valdez. The UP six have shown that they have enough fight to snatch a set from the Lady Spikers, but not enough to win three out of five sets.

Animo La Salle!