Lady Spikers are, slowly but surely, finding championship form

Maybe it was the 49 attack attempts en route to a UAAP career-high 20 points. Maybe it was because she raised her arms several times and egged on the DLSU crowd to cheer louder at a crucial point. Or maybe it was because she was 25 days removed from being advised by physicians to not suit up and rest for a week, but post-game, there was a moment when Desiree Cheng was massaging her right shoulder after a hard-fought battle against the UST Golden Tigresses.

With the way the current Lady Spikers team captain inspired her teammates to deliver a 21-25, 25-23, 25-19, 26-24 victory against their first-round tormentors, the school might as well try to insure Cheng’s right shoulder to an amount of more or less ten million pesos.

At this point in the tournament, whether or not Cheng is at 100% doesn’t really make a difference. What matters is that the team, through its collective effort, is finding the form that could finally win the Lady Spikers its first-ever four-peat.

Aside from making adjustments from the first round against the same UST squad: committed less errors (36-44 compared to 23-18 last March 6) and had more blocks (12 compared to only seven in the first round), yesterday, the defending champions also adjusted from an error-prone first set to take the next three sets.

According to DLSU head coach Ramil de Jesus: “Nakuha naman ng UST yung first set kasi ang ‘dami naming unforced error. Sabi ko mag-adjust nalang, mas kumilos nang mas magaan, then huwag masyadong tight sa loob. Ayon, eventually nakuha namin yung second set.”

Going back to the team’s 20-25, 22-25, 17-25 setback in the first round, not one Lady Spiker finished in double-digits while the Tigresses, despite missing sophomore Milena Alessandrini due to a knee injury, were led by a combined 34 points from Sisi Rondina and rookie Eya Laure.

Although the UST duo would go on to combine for another 39 points yesterday, it took them 110 attempts (34/110 or 30.9%) as La Salle’s blocking game was spot on. With the uninspired way the team lost its previous meeting against UST, it would be a good bet that DLSU was on a mission when the game started at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“Siguro mas gusto lang namin manalo today, mas gusto namin gumanda kung nasaan kami ngayon sa standing namin… maglaro kami as one team, kaya ganoon yung naging result,” added Cheng.

Overshadowed by Cheng’s game-high production and emotions on the court was Aduke Ogunsanya who tallied 12 points, eight from attacks and four kill blocks. Aside giving La Salle set point at the second set, 24-23, Ogunsanya also gave the Lady Spikers the third frame after another conversion for a 25-19 score.

The fourth-year middle blocker was also clutch in the fourth and final frame, scoring four of her total production to keep DLSU in step with their España counterparts. Fellow starters Jolina dela Cruz, Tin Tiamzon, and Lourdes Clemente added a total of 17 points to ably support Cheng and Ogunsanya’s efforts.

The Lady Spikers next game is against the Adamson Lady Falcons on April 7, Sunday, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.