It’s easy to overreact and treat yesterday’s 24-26, 24-26, 25-21, 17-25 loss as more than just a game because of who the Lady Spikers lost to. The La Salle six was actually the first to get to set point on the first two sets but weren’t able to close out the Ateneo Lady Eagles on both occasions.
Season 78 Finals MVP Kim Keanna Dy took the scoring chores with 15 points (12/45 on attack, and three blocks), but she clearly was a marked man by the Ateneo defense especially during crunch time. Fellow starters and hitters Desiree Cheng and sophomore Tin Tiamson were each held to five points, the latter continuing her consistent inconsistency this season (2, 14, 5, 17, 5, and 11 points in the previous six matches).
While there were players who shrunk in the big lights of the SM MoA Arena, several players like May Luna and Aduke Ogunsanya felt right at home at collegiate sports’ biggest matchup. Aduke was a force in the middle, tallying 12 points and a game-high four blocks; it was a shame though that team captain and setter Kim Fajardo did not utilize her middle attackers more against the Lady Eagles’ net defense.
Luna, with the team in badly need of a spark and boost of Animo, provided four booming serves during a stretch in the third set and was even heard cheering loudly during several timeouts. Coming off an injury, the Tagum City-native is finding her form but almost equalled her UAAP Season 79 total of 10 points with yesterday’s eight point output.
May was coach Ramil de Jesus’ magic “bunot” that fortunately provided good results.
The team however still needs to find their rhythm on offense, especially after going 43/164 (26.2%, second-lowest this season) against the Lady Eagles. At the sidelines, Ateneo coach Tai Bundit can be heard yelling “quick! quick!” and other instructions; knowing well in advance what plays or sets Fajardo and company were trying to execute.
So prepared were the Katipunan-based squad that they were even prepared for La Salle’s “secret weapon” of Kim Fajardo being utilized as a spiker (with rookie Michelle Cobb setting her up). Unforced errors also hounded the team (31 vs. AdMU’s 21), highlighted by a poor volley from a just-off-the-bench Norielle Ipac after spectacular saves from libero Dawn Macandili and KKD in the fourth set.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown
From being the hunter in the past two seasons, the defending champions are now the team being hunted by the seven other teams. The league has scouted and somewhat caught up a bit to the nine-time UAAP champions in terms of experience and skill, and it will be a challenge to La Salle and its coaching staff to keep one or two steps ahead of the competition.
Being more effective and efficient on offense is a good start. Finding a closer or two who will figuratively swing the axe to finish off their opponents is another item on the wish list. The team has the whole second round to regroup, recuperate, and learn from Saturday’s humiliation; and if the beast mode-looking game against the NU Lady Bulldogs (after a straights-set defeat versus UP) is any indication, the whole league better brace for a DLSU bounce back.
Animo La Salle!