Playing in their third five-setter in four games, the two-time defending UAAP volleyball champions DLSU Lady Spikers displayed a gallant stand only to come up short, 24-26, 25-19, 25-22, 17-25, 14-16, against an equally talented, well-coached, and motivated NU Lady Bulldogs and notched their first loss in Season 80.
Both squad came into the FilOil Arena armed with similar 3-0 win-loss records and battled each other like the championship was already at stake. In what could be a Finals preview, NU leaned on their tower of power Jaja Santiago and their spiking prowess to take the first and fourth sets while La Salle got their groove on during the middle two sets.
Despite leading 8-5 and 12-8 at different moments of the deciding frame, untimely unforced errors and NU’s unstoppable offense got the better of DLSU. Eight of La Salle’s 33 total miscues happened at the worst possible time while the Lady Bulldogs only committed two mistakes, both from the service line.
In a game where the margin of error is slim and both teams were almost-even in terms of the final statistics (105-108 total score, 51 DLSU points from spikes versus 55 for NU, 11-13 blocks in favor of NU, 8-7 advantage in service points for La Salle, and 33-35 errors going for DLSU), momentum, timing, and end-game poise spelled the difference.
After a Desiree Cheng ace gave La Salle the 12-8 edge, the Lady Bulldogs went on an 7-2 run, four spikes, a service ace, and three DLSU errors, before NU open spiker Aiko Urdas sealed the Lady Spikers fate with another point from the service line.
Yesterday’s loss was a complete contrast to the team’s first two five-setters against UST and FEU where the Taft-based squad proved to be the steadier squad down the stretch and only coughed up a combined two errors.
— AnimoPexers (@AnimoPexers) February 18, 2018
Historically, any Ramil de Jesus-coached La Salle team bounces back to win the next game convincingly, have a better performance against the same opponent in the second round, or would go on long winning streaks heading into the playoff rounds.
The team never lost back-to-back games last season and one would have to go all the way back to Season 77 to find a La Salle team losing consecutive matches. This setback, while initially be heartbreaking, may prove to be beneficial to the Lady Spikers’ Season 80 campaign in the long run.
No love for the Lady Tamaraws on Valentine’s Day
The first three games of the defending champions have shown the myriad of ways that the Lady Spikers are beating the rest of the league: a balanced attack against the UST Golden Tigress where three players finished in double figures and two more with nine points each; an unstoppable service game to the tune of 16 in a three-set sweep of the UP Lady Maroons; and capitalizing on an error-prone (46) FEU squad last Valentine’s Day.
The five-set matches against UST and FEU had similar themes in that both opponents featured high-leaping hitters in Cherry Rondina (UST) and Bernadette Pons (FEU), respectively; players that the team are having difficulties in stopping this Season 80 and isn’t a feature on coach Ramil de Jesus’ regular rotation.
Although they tallied 38 miscues against the Golden Tigress, only two of those were recorded in the pivotal final period while the team didn’t hand over a single free point versus FEU.
In the 25-22, 25-17, 24-26, 23-25, 15-7 win against FEU last February 14, half of the team’s points in the first two sets came from unforced errors by their Morayta counterparts. Three rotation errors as well as the ones from missed hits from attacks and service miscues were quickly capitalized by the two-time defending champions for a two-sets-to-none lead.
DLSU had the upper hand for most of the third set, racing to comfortable leads at 8-3 and 16-12 and even reaching double match-point at 24-22. However, the team lost focus on the next two plays and coughed up two consecutive errors before allowing the Lady Tamaraws to score the set’s last two points.
A close fourth set where FEU out-attacked (13-10), out-served (3-2), and committed less errors (8-7) than the Lady Spikers resulted into La Salle’s second fifth set in their first three games. DLSU only had to play one five-setter last year: Game 2 of the UAAP volleyball tournament finals against the AdMU Lady Eagles.
Fortunately, like Season 79’s championship clinching fifth-set win, La Salle was steadier when it mattered most; going on a 7-1 run after the score was tied at 5-5 to virtually snuff out any hopes of an FEU comeback at 12-7.
Despite Pons leading all scorers with 21 points, the Lady Spikers were able to limit the FEU team captain to only a single point in the fifth set as fatigue from playing more than two hours set in. The Lady Tamaraws committed seven more errors in the final set, none more important the last four blunders that turned an 11-6 deficit to an even bigger one at 14-7.
Coming back from a hyperextended knee injury, Kim Kianna Dy has been improving game-by-game, leading the team with 18 markers after scoring 13 and nine in the two previous games. Quiet in the three-set sweep over UP, middle blockers Aduke Ogunsanya and Season 80 MVP Majoy Baron bounced back by combining for 27 points.
Asia’s second best libero and reigning UAAP Best Receiver Dawn Macandili was at her usual, highlight reel best at the floor and the back row; registering 34 excellent digs and sharing team-high reception honors with Desiree Cheng with 13 each.
The Lady Spikers look to bounce back against the UE Lady Warriors on February 21, 4PM, also at the FilOil Arena.
Animo La Salle!