Note to Season 74 WVT challengers: the road to the championship leads to Taft. Unless a challenger can force a detour through their campus, the Lady Spikers’ inexorable march to a repeat looks very probable.
In today’s match closing the eliminations, the Lady Spikers faced down the determined challenge of Ateneo in 5 sets to finish the eliminations with an immaculate 14-0 record and book a seat to the finals to await the results of the consequential stepladder playoffs.
In the most highly anticipated match between the top 2 placers, the Lady Spikers took everything their Atenean counterparts could dish out, steadied themselves, and took the match pulling away, 18-25, 25-14, 21-25, 25-19 and 15-7. This was the first match in the second round that the Lady Spikers allowed an opponent to take a set, and Ateneo managed 2. But what mattered was not the whitewash but the clean slate at the end of the eliminations. The prize? A shortcut to the finals with a thrice-to-beat advantage.
The Lady Spikers got off slow, as they have in a few games in the past, and Ateneo capitalized on the sluggish start to streak to an 18-25 first set. The same thing happened in their first round encounter, where Ateneo took the first set. Our players struggled with their service reception, particularly with Gervacio’s jump serve, to spot Ateneo that lead that they never completely overhauled in the first set. Uncharacteristic errors and the recurring service errors also gifted Ateneo with some free points in the early going, enough to give them that winning margin that spelled the difference in the first set.
Our team regrouped to pound out a dominating 25-14 second set, and looked poised to run away with the match. However, they lost concentration, made a few errors including the perennial service miscues, and handed the set to Ateneo, 21-25. Again down a set, with their backs to the wall, the Lady Spikers struggled through the second technical timeout before clamping down on defense and varying their attacks to win pulling away, 25-19. Team Captain Cha Cruz, Abi Marano and rookie Reyes shone brightest in that tough 4th set. The net defense stiffened, the floor coverage improved, and Ateneo spikes which which had previously resulted in scores were either blocked or retrieved and returned forcefully, forcing the Ateneans to take riskier shots just to evade the blockers, many of which missed the mark. By the latter part of the 4th set, the Lady Spikers were all business, and went for the kill. In the final set, the Lady Spikers made it look easy as they ran away from their demoralized opponents, 15-7. Abi Marano was adjudged “Player of the Game”, finishing with 20 points on a variety of runners and quick plays. Cha Cruz, playing her last few games with the team, pumped in 19 points, 18 coming off attacks. Our net defense was anchored by Reyes (10 points) and Gumabao (12 points), who made 2 clean blocks each and altered numerous other opponent spikes.
The capacity of the Lady Spikers to withstand hot starts by the opponents is a testament to their resilience and mental toughness. However, it also puts them in adverse situations that they have to dig themselves out of. Sometimes, it makes us wonder if they look for more challenges just to keep themselves interested. It reminds me of the fictional Borg of Star Trek, whose line “resistance is futile” might be very applicable when describing this edition of the Lady Spikers.
However, the sweep will not amount to anything unless the Lady Spikers complete the task by winning their next 2 games. Let’s cheer them on as they gun for the repeat!
Notes: Adamson, FEU, UST and Ateneo will figure in a stepladder playoff series to determine the Lady Spikers’ finals opponent. The championship match will start on Feb 25 with La Salle having the thrice-to-beat advantage. The Men’s Volleyball team finished the elimination round with a 9-5 record. They will enter the Final 4 as the 4th seed and will face FEU this coming Wednesday.