We lost. Surprise! Or maybe not. The first game of the finals saw a first loss for the previously unbeaten Lady Spikers.
The 18-day break afforded the Lady Spikers plenty of time to rest and prepare for the eagerly awaited finals against Ateneo. Although they had a good start with a dominant first set, Lady Spikers inexplicably stumbled in the next three sets to lose their first game after 30 consecutive UAAP wins.
It seemed that after the almost 3-week hiatus, the fire was not there yesterday. True, they won the first set handily, But in the tight second set, our players were unable to take control towards the end of the set, which is usually when they impose their game over the opponents; they dropped just their 3rd set this season at that point. The mental focus seemed absent, and this was most evident in the following set in which they managed a poor 13 points to effectively hand Ateneo the initiative. It also seemed that they had forgotten how it is to play in front of a big crowd. One thing is clear – that was not the DLSU Lady Spikers brand of volleyball that they have played so far this year. In this game alone, they lost more sets than they had previously in the season (2).
On the other hand, ADMU went through 3 do-or-die matches in the last two weeks and seemed to have carried their momentum over into the finals. They are on a roll, the confidence is there, and Ateneo is tough to beat when they’re on a streak. This ateneo team can no longer be considered as the underdogs in this series. They may have lost key players but the fact that they have gone this far is no longer just a matter of luck. Contrary to what others claim that they are young and inexperienced and having nothing to prove, this team has been a contender right from the start, having added good pieces to their lineup.
Where did our team underperform? Blocking was not effective, allowing many Ateneo attacks to get through to challenge our floor defense. Receiving was spotty, with Ateneo’s serves getting them easy points or forcing us to give them free balls which they would pound back at us. Our attacks were notably softer, and were anticipated by the Ateneo floor defense.
It’s now a best of 3 series with momentum now with Ateneo. Our team has been here before, and they overcame precisely this kind of adversity two years ago in exactly the same situation.
How they come back from this setback will define their legacy as the first team to ever get a 4 straight championships. They can and will probably achieve that unprecedented feat, but the road to the 4peat just got a little bit harder.