Similar to what the DLSU Lady Spikers have been doing in the past two UAAP seasons, La Salle got back at a first round tormentor and displayed a whole lot of swag and end-game composure in sweeping the NU Lady Bulldogs 27-25, 27-25, 25-16 yesterday at the Filoil Flying V Arena.
Aching to get back after their five-set 24-26, 25-19, 25-22, 25-17, 14-16 loss against the same NU six a few weeks earlier, the two-time defending champions actually started out flat in the first two sets and trailed 12-16 and 10-16 on two separate occasions. Head coach Ramil de Jesus, during one of the timeouts, noticed that his team was playing to the Lady Bulldogs’ tempo but instructed that his wards shouldn’t lose confidence and focus.
The deficit in the first set increased to 14-21 before a spirited 9-2 rally that started from a hit by second-year setter Michelle Cobb and ended by team captain Majoy Baron’s service ace tied the game at 23-all. Saving two set points, the La Salle six took whatever the 6-5 Jaja Santiago-led NU team brought and watched as the Sampaloc-based squad committed three straight errors late in the set to escape with the early one set lead.
Mirroring the previous set, La Salle committed all eight of their total second set unforced errors before the second technical timeout; giving NU easy points and needing another mighty effort to not let the set get away. A quick 6-0 swing led by Season 78 Finals MVP Kim Kianna Dy and punctuated by another service ace from Cobb allowed DLSU to keep in step with the Lady Bulldogs.
Throughout that rally and until the end of the match, La Salle’s trademark swag, from the way they stare, point/gesture their fingers , walk, and probably talk against their opponents across the net oozed like only a Lady Spikers team can.
National U was again the first team to reach set point at 23-24 but failed to capitalize with two straight unforced errors. With the score tied at 25-all, Desiree Cheng, perhaps the “swaggy”-est player in the DLSU roster, came up with two booming hits, a cross-court and one off NU’s blockers to hand La Salle the commanding two sets-to-none lead.
Visibly winning the mental match and with momentum and confidence completely on their side, La Salle started out strong in the third and final set, taking leads of 8-5 and 16-12 en route to a quick sweep of the then league-leading NU Lady Bulldogs.
It was a set where the Lady Spikers minimized their miscues (only three of their total 21 vs. eight for NU) and maximized every opportunity to score at will – off the block attacks by Tin Tiamson, down the line spikes by Cheng, running hit by Baron, combo set completed by KKD, and a game-clinching strike by reserve player Arriane Layug.
After going for 21 points against Ateneo last week, KKD once again took the game-high scorer plum, producing 14 points on nine attacks, three service aces, and two kill blocks. Cheng, the league leader in the service area with 20, scored in double-digits for the fourth straight time with 13; backstopped by Baron with 11.
The Lady Spikers, now atop the team standings with a 6-2 record, are finally seeing things come together just as the team gears up for the rest of the second round and into the playoffs. Individual roles and responsibilities, player rotation, and production on both offense and defense have been there during the past two victories, now it’s up to the team to consistently perform their winning brand of UAAP volleyball from hereon, with a touch of swag, of course.
It will be a busy schedule for the Lady Spikers next week as they take on the UP Lady Maroons on March 14 (2PM) and the FEU Lady Tamaraws on March 18 (4PM), both at the Filoil Flying V Arena.
Animo La Salle!