Can’t believe this is the Lady Spikers’ endgame

We have been here before.

For newer “fans” and supporters of the Lady Spikers, it’s during the La Salle-Ateneo era. Remember 14-0? Straight to the finals. With a thrice-to-beat advantage in the series that ended with the rest of the team vowing to make up to Aby Maraño for not winning against Ateneo?

For the old school ones, the real OG ones, it’s when the important games like the Season 72 finals between La Salle and UST was still played at the San Juan Arena and the demand for tickets was reasonable compared to today. The court wasn’t covered in Taraflex flooring then.

Even for a certain Ramil de Jesus, nothing is assured –not even a finals appearance after making it to the title series in the past 10 years. Seven championships with two three-peat reigns and three runner-ups and we’re still doubting the chief architect and main father-figure of the Lady Spikers.

He has been here before.

Defeated the UST Tigresses in Season 73 during their “golden era”. Stopped Tai Bundit and a similarly three-peat seeking Ateneo squad in Season 78 and deny the Lady Eagles’ best volleyball player, a certain Alyssa Valdez, from going out of the UAAP with a championship.

And now, questions and criticisms are popping left and right on why he took the task of coaching two volleyball squads: the DLSU Lady Spikers and Philippine Superliga (PSL) team F2 Logistics Cargo Movers at the same time. In case you didn’t know, F2 lost its best-of-three title series 2-1 against Petron a day before La Salle came up short against a more determined UST squad on May 5.

Haters. Doubters. Doomsayers.

Ramil de Jesus, in his 22nd year manning the La Salle bench, has seen and heard all of it before.

Coach RdJ himself admitted that, unlike previous years, this collection of Lady Spikers is unlike any other. Aside from waiting until January of this year to finalize their UAAP lineup due to injuries, the team is also one of the youngest in recent history with five rookies teaming up with the nine hold-overs from last year.

Being the most experienced player, fifth-year open spiker Desiree Cheng assumed the role of team captain, but Des also had her share of memorable as well as forgettable moments in Season 81. Cheng’s UAAP career-high 20 points in the 2nd round against UST made the headlines as much as her shoulder injury late in the first round and sub-par two-point performance in the team’s last elimination round game against FEU.

The latter was caused by needing to be vaccinated due to a scratch by stray cats in DLSU.

Des has had her share of online bashers and people who just love to hate on the Hope Christian High School product as well. Someone even went to the extent of hacking her Twitter account in the middle of last year’s UAAP tournament.

Incidents are nothing new for Cheng. She has been here before. But unlike coach RdJ and the rest of the team, there’s no more next season for Desiree to make up for going 10-4 in the elimination round (worst Season 70’s 3-11) and ending the season with three-straight losses.

Yesterday’s loss was the UAAP endgame for both Desiree Cheng and transferee Lourdes Clemente. As for coach Ramil de Jesus, his coaching staff, and the remaining Lady Spikers, this marks the start of a new phase.

No more pressure from trying to achieving a historic four-peat – something never before accomplished in the Final Four era. From the ashes of this season’s failed campaign comes lessons and experience that will sharpen and improve the Lady Spikers for Season 82.

New leaders will emerge. Roles will be defined and re-defined. The trademark “swag” will still be there as well as the personification of the Animo spirit.

Bandwagon fans are requested to form a single file and leave the premises. Those who remain loyal already know what’s in store for the Lady Spikers.

We all have been here before.