The defending UAAP women’s volleyball champions DLSU Lady Spikers ended their version hell week with a relatively respectable 1-1 record; facing two erstwhile unbeaten teams in the UP Lady Maroons (4-0) and NU Lady Bulldogs (3-1). Wednesday games continue to be a puzzle to the Taft-based squad as a sluggish La Salle six yielded a 22-25, 21-25, 19-25 straight sets loss to their Diliman-based counterparts.
For those who were on hand to witness the UP’s demolition of La Salle’s offense, defense, and more importantly, confidence, the game was the worst-case scenario for Season 79: anemic offense (UP’s 23-39 edge on attack points), porous floor defense (38 vs. the Lady Maroons’ 60 excellent digs), and no Lady Spiker finishing in double figures.
Coming off two consecutive wins to open the season against FEU and UST, La Salle was listless and was clearly the less hungry of the two squads. While clearly having the edge in championship experience and pedigree, DLSU just didn’t have the oomph and spunk that the upstart, and current league leaders, Lady Maroons displayed in the one hour and 27 minute match.
Playing with chips on their shoulders
From seemingly waking up from the wrong side of the bed last Wednesday (Feb. 15), the Lady Spikers treated their match-up against NU with laser-like focus, bad intentions, and chips on their shoulders in the 29-27, 25-16, 25-21 bounce-back victory.
Matched-up against the league’s top spiker, blocker, and server in Jaja Santiago, coach Ramil de Jesus and his players were able to limit the 6’5” NU team captain to 13 points while unleashing a few surprise moves/aces up their sleeves in rookie Michelle Cobb and a beast-mode looking Aduke Ogunsanya.
Cobb made her mark in the last points of the first set when de Jesus inserted the rookie with the score tied at 27-all. Two straight points: a service ace by Cobb, followed by a spike by Ogunsanya gave DLSU the set, momentum, and all the confidence they lost or failed to show in their previous game.
Everything clicked for the Green and White squad in the next set. With 11 attack points, five blocks, and five service aces registered by La Salle, NU and its coaching staff were left clueless and in limbo; their self-belief slowly inching away. From taking an 8-3 lead after the first technical timeout, balanced scoring from Ogunsanya, Tin Tiamson, Kim Dy, Desiree Cheng, and even team captain Kim Fajardo widened the lead to 17-8.
Two more hits, one from Aduke and another service ace from Season 78 Finals MVP Dy closed out the second set, 25-16. After a slow start to the third set, the Lady Spikers showed that they still have that killer’s instinct to finish off the Lady Bulldogs. With the score tied at 20-all, a running hit by Majoy Baron (7 total points) followed by an NU error gave La Salle a bit of breathing room. Tiamzon (game-high 17 points, 12 from attack, three blocks, two aces) hit a well-placed spike before Aduke (11 points, six from attack and five blocks) denied Jaja at the net and put the Lady Spikers at match point.
From Wednesday’s low point, Sunday was probably the team’s high point so far in this young season. While the team’s veterans are still being counted on to generate on offense and defense, surprise contributors like Tin and Aduke are showing promise when given the chance.
Consistency will be the key for the two young starters, as they need to produce like how they did against NU. In the second week of UAAP competition, we have learned that the defending champions, despite losing five players to graduation, still have the materials for back-to-back titles. That they have the resilience and fortitude to bounce back from whatever obstacle or challenge they may face this season.
The team’s next two matches against the winless teams Adamson Lady Falcons (Feb 22, Fil-Oil) and UE Lady Warriors (Feb 26, Fil-Oil) should help sharpen the team more before their matchup against the Ateneo Lady Eagles. It will also be a chance for coach Ramil to utilize his rookies and young players, give them some playing time for crucial matches ahead.
Animo La Salle!