Lady Spikers must push through errors and injuries in order to bounce back

Yesterday’s 25-21, 20-25, 21-25, 25-20, 12-15 loss still stings for both the DLSU Lady Spikers and the Lasallian community. Riding high on a two-season long 14-game win streak, the three-time defending champions came into the Smart Araneta Coliseum determined to continue their winning ways and improve its once immaculate 3-0 Season 81 win-loss record.

The La Salle six did a great job of extending the match to a 5th set after trailing one set to two, and an even greater task of pushing UP to 12-all after trailing 8-11 in the deciding frame. After more than two hours of trading spikes, serves, and digs against contender UP though, La Salle came up just a bit short against a hungry Lady Maroons side that was hell-bent on making a statement to the rest of the league.

Post-game, there are several instances where we can say that: “The team has been here/done that before.”

Commit more errors than their opponents; La Salle has done that before. As early as their previous game against the NU Lady Bulldogs (31-25), the Lady Spikers committed more errors (37-29) versus UP, including coughing up 11 and 10 in the second and third sets. These costly errors, whether in service, attacks, or receive, halt whatever momentum the team is building, give free points to the other side, and make winning the set or game that much tougher.

Lose in the first round to contender; been there, done that. Last year’s five-set loss to the Jaja Santiago-led NU squad coupled with Season 79’s straight-sets defeat to the same Tots Carlos/Isa Molde-led Lady Maroons looks eerily similar to the one that occurred less than 24 hours ago.

DLSU’s opponents were the hungrier, underdog team in all three occasions; what matters now, in Season 81, is for the team to bounce back in their next game and get back at their tormentors in the second round just like what they did in prior seasons.

Chance at a four-peat; DLSU’s been here before. Thrice. The big picture in Season 81 is, of course, the chance to do what no other team has even done since the Final Four was instituted in 1993: win four consecutive women’s volleyball titles. Coach Ramil de Jesus was denied of a chance in Season 69 (suspension) after winning Seasons 66-68, and then again during Season 76 after claiming the three previous years.

This year’s Lady Spikers feature less height, rely less on the patented La Salle blocking compared to past UAAP teams, and have starters nursing injuries: May Luna (swollen cheek) and Desiree Cheng (shoulder). But the first round is when a team can make mistakes so that they can learn and adjust against the same opponent in the second phase of the tournament.

Last Saturday’s loss, in some way, is healthy for the psyche of the team; there’s no more pressure to achieve an undefeated season. No more pursuit of going 14-0 in the elims. Just a determined attitude and mentality to improve day by day, game by game until, hopefully, the Lady Spikers peak at the right time and at the right moment.

Day’s not over for the Lady Spikers
Last Wednesday’s 25-10, 20-25, 27-25, 25-22 winning score against the 10-man NU Lady Bulldogs may seem routine for the DLSU Lady Spikers but the post-game frustrations of 11-time UAAP champion coach Ramil de Jesus paints a far different perspective from the La Salle tactician.

Visibly frustrated during the post-game interview, coach RdJ lamented on the team’s errors, particularly from the service line. The pursuit of perfection and want for correcting bad habits early in Season 81 necessitated the team going back to training right after the end of the one hour, 49-minute match at the Filoil Flying V Center.

Having the chance to talk to La Salle great and current Petro Gazz Angels team captain Stephanie Mercado on the team’s struggles at the service area against NU, the former DLSU open hitter said that RdJ really puts a lot of attention to his wards’ serving skills during training; and that every service attempt should be loaded and with a specific target.

Despite wanting to serve every time with bad intentions, Paneng says that it’s not every day that the execution goes according to plan: “It happens to any team, there are days (that) you (don’t) understand what is happening. But at the end of the day, what’s important is you know what your mistakes are so you can correct those during training and apply during games.”

A member of several DLSU champion teams, Mercado also shared an instance when the team also went straight to training after a won match. “I think it was in Season 72. We won our game via straight sets but coach wasn’t satisfied with the way we played. Konting usap lang (after the game) and then he asked: ‘Available ba (Razon Sports) Complex?’ They (team officials) checked, said yes, and told us: ‘Magbihis lang kayo. Training tayo ‘pag dating (sa) La Salle.’ (At) hindi light training ah. I remember “parusa” training plus corrections ng mga kulang.”

Animo La Salle!