Mika Reyes soared high and raised one hand in a clear attempt to send another numbing spike towards the side of the Lady Eagles. A couple of Ateneo blockers immediately jumped for a rendezvous at the top of the net and try to foil her attack.
But the ball was never intended for her, as Kim Fajardo has already made a perfect set to Ara Galang, who found herself impeded by a lone defender as she prepared for a kill. The ball made it past the flailing hands of the defender before reverberating on the arena’s floor.
Pandemonium erupted inside the Mall of Asia Arena. Galang pumped her fists in the air as team captain Abi Maraño, who was a steadying presence throughout these pressure-packed finals, hugged and lifted her momentarily off the ground. The Lady Spikers had padded their lead late in the third set to seven points. They were three points away from winning the championship.
The next sequence saw Fajardo forming a wall with Maraño to turn back an Ateneo attack. Two more points separated them from their third straight volleyball title. Galang, who is on the blue-hued service line, hoisted the ball in the air and spiked it to the other end of the court.
The ball went straight to the floor and was never sent back to their side of the court. Galang had scored her first service ace of the match. Now it was only a single point that separated them from the title that they had steadily been working on since their first match in early December.
Galang prepared to serve once more, and the barker announced that she was serving for the match. Shouts of “Defense!” from the crowd swelled to decibels that rivalled a jumbo jet taking off an airport.
But the Lady Eagles fought until the last point, and managed to return the ball to their side. An attack by Fille Cainglet was received by Cyd Demecillo. Another one by Michelle Gumabao was sent back by a couple of Lady Eagles. Alyssa Valdez managed to return a drop hit by Reyes.
A set by Jem Ferrer was then prepared to be sent back by Lady Eagles team captain Dzi Gervacio, but it instead came up short and ricocheted off the net and back into her hands before hitting the floor.
And with that, the DLSU Lady Spikers are back atop the UAAP mountain.
A season that began with a stunning loss that was followed with a string of wins that featured routs and barnbruners, blow-outs and squeakers, had finally ended in an emphatic victory over their biggest rivals.
With their unforced errors minimized after an error-plagued first game and their defense clicking , the Lady Spikers overwhelmed the Lady Eagles in straight sets, 25-23, 25-20, 25-16, earlier tonight at the Mall of Asia Arena to win their third straight UAAP Women’s Volleyball title and their seventh in the last decade.
It is only the second time that the Lady Spikers won three straight volleyball titles, with their first coming from 2003-2005.
The match was also their sixteenth straight win of the season, as they had not dropped a contest since that opening day loss to the hands of the UST Tigresses last December 1. The game also marked the 190th career victory for Lady Spikers’ mentor Ramil De Jesus, who delivered another title to Taft Avenue.
Mika Reyes topscored for the Lady Spikers with 16 points and seven blocks, while Galang and the Best Blocker Maraño, who were earlier adjudged as the season’s co- MVPs adding 12 points apiece. Demecillo and Gumabao both added six markers, while Wensh Tiu also chipped in with four.
Libero and Season 71 Rookie of the Year Melissa Gohing, who played her last game in the UAAP, also contributed to the Lady Spikers’ cause as she had 17 excellent digs.
It was Gumabao who was deemed as the Finals MVP, as she scored six points in this contest while scoring 15 in the previous game and was the Player of the Game for that match.
The Lady Eagles, meanwhile, were led by the 14 points of Best Scorer Alyssa Valdez, although no other teammate managed to score in double figures. Graduating players Cainglet and Gervacio netted eight and seven markers for the Lady Eagles, respectively. Others who played their last UAAP game for the Lady Eagles include Gretchen Ho, setter Jem Ferrer, and reserve Aillysse Nacachi.
If their improbable comeback during their first match mirrored their first encounter with the Lady Eagles, this one was highly reminiscent of their second encounter which was, incidentally, also held at the Mall of Asia Arena.
But that does not mean that the match was bereft of any tense moments, as evidenced by the tightly-contested first two sets.
La Salle was holding a comfortable lead late in the first set, 24-19, when Valdez rattled off five straight points to bring the Ateneo crowd to life bring them within a point, 23-24. But a block by Reyes on the other end preserved the lead for the Lady Spikers and allowed them to pocket the first frame.
The Lady Eagles were all guns ablaze at the onset of the second set, as they held a six-point lead several times in the set, the last at 13-6, and still held a sizeable 17-14 advantage after the second technical timeout before a blistering run by La Salle that saw them score seven quick points allowed them to take a slim lead which they held on to right until the end. Reyes added a fitting punctuation to the set by ending it with a service ace.
Ateneo, however, once more held another early lead in the third set, as Cainglet handed her team an 8-5 lead heading into the first technical timeout. Maraño, however, combined forces with fellow MVP winner Galang to score the bulk of the Lady Spikers’ points as they took the driver’s seat courtesy of a vicious attack by Galang.
By the time Ateneo was able to answer their barrage of points, they had built a seven-point lead, 22-16, and Maraño, Gumabao, Reyes, Demecillo, Fajardo, and especially Galang on the service line were ready to deliver the finishing punches that would secure their third straight title.