Last Year’s Record: 14-0 in the elimination round; secured thrice-to-beat advantage over Ateneo in the Finals; lost the first game before sweeping the next two games to win their second straight title and their third in four years;
Team Additions: Rookies – Cienne Cruz, Justine Tiu, Kim Fajardo; Returnee – Cyd Demecillo
A Testament to Continuity: As a testament to the continuity of the volleyball program of La Salle, the Rookie of the Year Award has gone to Taft Avenue in the last four years, with Melissa Gohing winning it in Season 71, Joanne Siy in Season 72 (along with the Best Blocker plum), Mika Esperanza in Season 73, and Ara Galang last Season 74 (together with the Best Server diadem).
Personnel Losses: Cha Cruz, Carmela Garbin, Diemmy Alexi Tatlonghari, Camille Cruz
Outlook: Each thunderous spike that sailed past the net and through the flailing arms of an opposing player was a brick laid firmly in place, and each win the mortar that bound them together. And after breezing through the elimination round and booking an outright finals slot, slipping momentarily in that opening Finals game, before regaining their bearings and winning the championship in resounding fashion, the dynasty that the DLSU Lady Spikers have worked hard to build is almost finished.
As the fires of the second semester of the UAAP Season 75 are set alight, the bells of greatness will be tolling and beckoning for these Lady Spikers as they gun for their third straight volleyball crown, their second three-peat (their first being won from 2003-2005), and their seventh in the last ten years.
As a testament to their dominance, La Salle has only suffered two defeats in the last two years (one on paper against the UE Lady Warriors two years ago, and one in the Finals against Ateneo last year). But this year, without the aid of two-time MVP Cha Cruz who punctuated her collegiate career with two championships, the climb towards the top seems a little steeper.
Filling the void left by the one whom they call “Ms. Everything” will be a daunting task, but there are a crop of players who can hold the fort in her absence. After all, Coach Ramil De Jesus can still count on last season’s MVP Abi Maraño, two-time Best Blocker Michelle Gumabao, last season’s Rookie of the Year and Best Server Ara Galang, Season 73 Rookie of the Year Mika Esperanza, Season 71 Rookie of the Year Melissa Gohing (who will be donning the Green-and-White for the fifth and final time), and players like Mika Reyes and rookie Cienne Cruz to bring the team to the Promised Land once more.
But standing in their way is the Ateneo Lady Eagles, who still have their veteran line-up intact from last year and are looking to win their first volleyball crown since joining the UAAP. Other teams that look to derail their date with destiny are Adamson, FEU, NU and UST, with the Lady Tamaraws and the Lady Bulldogs having already won skirmishes in the recruitment wars by securing a good crop of rookies in their line-ups.
This road towards the championship proves to be an arduous one for these Lady Spikers, and just like season, we will witness blow-outs and barnburners, and of course, those patented La Salle comebacks like the one they engineered during the second game of the Finals.
Games will be a little harder to win, and sweeping the elimination round (inside the court) for the third straight year may be a little more difficult to pull off, but with a relatively younger nucleus that had its mettle tested twice in the finals, a multi-titled coach at the helm, and a spirit that has never broken even in the face of huge deficits, it’s hard to bet against these Lady Spikers.
The First Game: The Lady Spikers will begin their Season 75 campaign against the Tigresses this Sunday, December 2, at the Fil-Oil Arena in San Juan.