Eight things I like and don’t like about the Lady Spikers after the first round

It has been exactly a month (Feb. 17) since the DLSU Lady Spikers opened up their Season 81 campaign against Ateneo at the Mall of Asia Arena. Determined to kick things off the right way, the four-peat seeking La Salle six oozed with veteran poise and trademark swag to hand their Katipunan counterparts its first, and so far, only loss in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament.

Two more wins, against a feisty Adamson crew and a young but promising NU squad, helped the team to reach the top of the standings with a perfect 3-0 record. So far, so good. However, the timing of injuries to some key players and the inability to minimize unforced errors brought the team back to earth; making the Lady Spikers suffer something they haven’t experienced in the elimination round for more than a decade.

As with typical Ramil de Jesus-coached teams, La Salle found its groove back after convincing wins over the UE Lady Warriors and against the FEU Lady Tamaraws yesterday. It has been an up, then down, and now, up again roller coster ride for the team and its rabid supporters; we just hope that trend heading into the second round continues on an upward trajectory.

With that said, here are eight things I like and don’t like about the Lady Spikers’ Season 81 first round.

The DLSU Lady Spikers know how to bounce back
After suffering back-to-back regular season loses against UP and UST, La Salle won its next two assignments in straight-set fashion: a masterful 25-18, 25-20, 25-18 win against UE last week and a dominating 25-15, 25-19, 26-24 victory over fellow Season 80 finalist FEU Lady Tamaraws yesterday.

Improving their record to 5-2 and placing second in the standings, this batch of Lady Spikers has equalled the first round results of the past three championship winning-teams.

Giving up less unforced errors
After committing a season-high 37 errors in a five-set thriller against UP, the Lady Spikers have been fine-tuning their attack, receive, and service techniques and have limited their unforced errors. They made more errors in the next game versus UST (23-18) but controlled their miscues in the next two: 20-26 edge against UE and 16-28 versus FEU.

Loving DLSU’s depth
Tin Tiamzon, starting for the second straight game against FEU, was once again the top scorer with 13 points and six receptions. From her down-the-line hits, off-the-block attempts, and even the service line game (three aces), the fourth-year Lady Spiker gave the Lady Tamaraws a hard time all afternoon.

Add to that Lourdes Clemente’s contributions (eight points on four attacks and four blocks), and the instant impact that reserve players like rookie Marrione Alba, Desiree Cheng, and Julia Ipac’s when their numbers were called, and you can see why La Salle’s rotation is their biggest weapon this season.

These ladies know how to start strong and finish stronger
La Salle cruised through the first two sets against FEU and was staring at an 8-1 lead during the third set when their Morayta-based opponents used a 6-0 rally to tie the game from 17-11 to 17-all. Even when FEU was at set point, 23-24, after a Lycha Ebon hit, DLSU refused to extend the game to another set. Tiamzon answered with an attack of her own for the tie, before the Lady Tamaraws coughed up two straight errors.

These type of finishes were missing during the game against UP where the fifth set was tied at 12-all. It was good to see the team composed and thinking clearly even in tense and pressure-packed situations. The FEU game could have been finished a lot earlier, but something tells me that experiencing extended sets could only bode well for the Lady Spikers in the future.

Continued mastery over the Lady Tamaraws
One would have to go back to the Final Four of Season 78 for the last time DLSU lost a game against FEU. La Salle, armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, ruled over the Remy Palma-led Tams in the next game to enter the finals. Counting last year’s finals series, the Lady Spikers are riding on a seven-game winning streak against FEU.

Great to see the captain back
Finally listening to doctors’ advices, team captain Desiree Cheng missed DLSU’s last outing against UE a week ago and was ready for her number to called up in yesterday’s first round finale. The graduating fifth-year player was eventually able to see limited playing time and even contributed a point, to the delight of the Lasallian gallery.

However, with Tiamzon playing great and inspired in the last two games, head coach Ramil de Jesus will have a good “problem” in the near future: choosing whether to continue starting Tiamzon and retaining momentum or bringing back Cheng to the starting six.

Michelle Cobb’s drop balls
With almost everything on this list looking positive, I will add something that I don’t like: Cobb’s drop balls when she is in the front row. It’s hardly effective because with Michelle’s shorter height, the opponents can easily block her attack or the floor defense is there to get the ball back up.

The third-year setter, the league’s best with an average of 6.32 excellent sets (as of March 17, 2019), had another solid outing against FEU with 20 excellent sets. With a plethora of spikers and middle blockers to choose from, it maybe best for Cobb to limit her attack attempts. #SorryNotSorry

La Salle already has a win over league-leader Ateneo de Manila Lady Eagles, now it’s time to get back at their first round tormentors UP and UST in the second round.

The Lady Spikers’ next seven games should be exciting.

Animo La Salle!