In the earliest meeting between the DLSU Lady Spikers and Ateneo Lady Eagles in the Final Four era, the three-time defending UAAP champions dispatched their Katipunan-based counterparts, 25-14, 25-17, 16-25, 25-19, February 17 at the MOA Arena.
For sure, there was anxiety and moments of feeling out between the two protagonist at the start of the contest. With a mammoth crowd of 17,166 filling up the venue to the rafters, everybody wanted to see what the each team has in store for Season 81’s volleyball wars.
As the final buzzer sounded though, it was La Salle’s system, service game, and signature swag that enabled the team to start their historic four-peat ambition on the right foot.RdJ system
The graduation of MVP’s Majoy Baron, Kim Kianna Dy, and Dawn Macandili and DLSU trying to fill the void left by the trio hogged people’s predictions heading into the season. By the end of yesterday’s match however, the Lasallian community was buzzing from new names like rookie Jolina dela Cruz (11 points), and improved play from vets May Luna (11 points) and Noriel Ipac (4 points off the bench).
Entering his 22nd year at the helm of the La Salle bench, RdJ’s system isn’t as much a plug-and-play type, but rather a next-man up approach where talented but coachable players learn through the ropes and eventually master the on-court and leadership skills needed to flourish in the team.
Mayang Luna, starting for the first time in her four-year UAAP career, was effective as well as efficient in breaking through Ateneo’s towers while Ipac showed promise as Baron’s replacement. Scoreless starter, Lourdes Clemente should bounce back in the team’s next games after getting a taste of what UAAP action is like.
Also worth noting is the way La Salle prepares in the pre-season: opting to just keep their training in-house rather than join one-too-many tournaments and expose everything that they have been working on.Service game + floor defense
Featuring a smaller line-up this season, La Salle’s service game and floor defense will matter a lot more this year than in seasons past. There will be glimpses of the vaunted Green Wall (team captain Des Cheng’s two kill blocks on Ateneo’s Kat Tolentino) but expect more loaded hits from the service line (15-7 advantage) and excellent floor coverage (18 digs and 10 receptions from libero CJ Saga, and 9 digs and 10 receptions from Cheng).Service game + floor defense
With nervous energy at the start of yesterday’s opening match of a new volleyball tournament, DLSU needed an edge; a psychological one in the form of demoralizing celebrations and playful yelling. La Salle’s signature swag was needed, and Cheng and setter Michelle Cobb gladly served them in large doses. Every spike, successful receive, and kill block seemed to ooze with confidence; something the vets rubbed off their teammates as dela Cruz and Ipac was seen shouting and strutting after successful plays at the net.
The Lady Spikers next face the Adamson Lady Falcons on Saturday, February 23 at the Filoil Flying V Center.
Animo La Salle!