Gumabao tows Lady Spikers to the cusp of UAAP championship

Ara Galang beamed as she jumped up and down the padded floor of the Fil-Oil Arena as she is flanked by Mika Reyes and her other teammates. Galang, who earlier in the day was adjudged as the Rookie of the Year, had scored the Lady Spikers’ last three points, the last of which was a thunderous spike. But more importantly, those three points had put the game out of reach and had brought the Lady Spikers to the cusp of their second straight volleyball crown.

Bucking a slow start and a monster game from the Lady Eagles’ rookie Alyssa Valdez, the Lady Spikers disposed of their arch-rivals in four sets, 23-25, 25-21, 26-24, 25-18, in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 74 Women’s Volleyball Finals. The win enabled the squad to erase the stigma of a Game 1 setback which was their first loss in more than a year, and allowed them to move within a game of bringing home a second straight championship to Taft Avenue.

Galang and team captain Cha Cruz both netted 12 points apiece, while fellow rookie Mika Reyes chipped in 11 to pace the Green-and-White squad. Galang may have scored the game’s most important points, but the day easily belonged to the league’s Best Blocker, Michelle Gumabao, who topscored for the team with 18 markers spiked with a game-high five blocks.

But before the Lady Spikers asserted their might and took control of the game, it was the Blue-and-White squad who looked poised to grab the pivotal win, as they got off to a blistering start thanks to their stifling defense and excellent reception.

Valdez, who finished with a game-high 23 markers, tag-teamed with team captain Fille Cainglet and skipper Dzi Gervacio, who wound up with 13 and 10 points, respectively, to nab the first set for the Lady Eagles. “Galing kasi sila sa talo, kaya nadala siguro nila yun nung simula, pero nakarecover naman,” says Lady Spikers mentor Ramil De Jesus about his team’s shaky start.

Gumabao then starred as the defending champions finally awoke from their slumber and wrested the second set, notching the game point on a vicious Cha Cruz attack. And it was in the third set that the Lasallian faithful among the crowd were treated to another one of the all-familiar comebacks staged by the Lady Spikers as they slowly clambered from an 11-17 deficit to eventually grab the lead at 25-24 on a service ace by Reyes, and finally win the set on yet another numbing attack from Cruz.

And after a withstanding a shaky start, it was the old Lady Spikers who showed up in the fourth set, as they built a 23-16 lead that was simply too much for their rivals to overhaul, as the team wrapped up the victory with Galang scoring the team’s last three points.

Complementing the team’s emphatic victory were the several individual awards that were won by Abi Marano, who was the season’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), Gumabao, who was the league’s Best Blocker, and Galang, who was the year’s best newcomer. It is noteworthy to mention that the past four rookies of the year have all hailed from the Green-and-White Squad, beginning from Melissa Gohing (2009), Joanne Siy (2010), Mika Esperanza (2011), and now Galang.

But while there were fists that were being pumped, hands that were being raised, and smiles that were being flashed, the team knows that their task is not yet done, as there remains a single, all-important game to be won on Wednesday, when the two teams meet once more.

“Kailangan lang nila ipagpatuloy yung ginawa nila kanina,” says De Jesus when asked about what it will take for them to eke out another win and cop the volleyball crown. “At saka dapat bawasan pa nila yung unforced errors nila.” Gumabao, meanwhile, summarized her mantra for the next game with a few simple words, “Kailangan kong ayusin yung blocking and yung puso dapat nandun din.”

Their lofty dream for an undefeated season may have vanished with a stunning defeat last Wednesday, but the Lady Spikers remain resolute in their title-retention bid. And with another win on Wednesday, they may be able to do just that.