Calling this a statement win would be the ultimate understatement. Not only have the DLSU Lady Spikers proved to themselves that they still got what it takes to nail a 9th UAAP crown but also serve as a stern warning to the rest of the league.
Disposing the two-time defending champion Ateneo Lady Eagles in straight sets, 25-22, 25-14, 25-18, the Lady Spikers turned what was expected to be a tightly fought affair to a virtual party/rock concert scene for the green side of the Smart Araneta Coliseum at match point.
Bench players, alumni, supporters and even former players led by Aby Maraño whooped it up at the third frame when La Salle trailed early, 4-8, but managed to outscore the Lady Eagles 21-10 the rest of the way. Not only did DLSU seemed like the “happier” team but the more confident team on both ends of the net as well.
La Salle’s balanced scoring, sharp service game (13 vs. Ateneo’s six), and defense through digging and blocking (7-2) were clicking perfectly; a perfect combination needed to stop not only Ateneo’s 24-game winning steak but also serves as a springboard heading into the Lady Spiker’s match against UST on March 2 and the second round.
Aside from tactics, the Lady Spikers showed how badly they wanted this win through their aggressiveness. So disruptive and effective was the Great Green Wall that they forced Ateneo’s main hitters, Alyssa Valdez (11 points) and Jhoana Maraguinot (8) to generate their attacks from the back row, away from the long arms of Mika Reyes, Mary Joy Baron, and company.
Three players led by team captain Kim Fajardo’s 13, seven from service aces, scored in double digits as Ara Galang and the fast-rising Baron netted 10 apiece. Kudos also to coach Ramil for putting in 3rd year player Kim Dy in place of Carol Cerveza. Dy, a former juniors MVP responded with her best outing in Season 78, and made de Jesus look like a genius with her seven points.
Ateneo’s younger players and shaky libero play were factors into giving up the battle of attacks, 29-33, digs (19-22), and reception (16-24) to the more experienced La Salle six. The league’s best libero, DLSU’s own Dawn Macandili had another solid and consistent game on defense, almost out-digging and out-receiving the whole Lady Eagles team with her 16 and 13.
Managing their unforced errors to 17 also proved how focused and tuned in the team was given a long six-day break from their last game against the UE Lady Warriors last Sunday. Hopefully the Lady Spikers can continue to be equally strong mentally and psychologically when the stakes get higher and the games tougher in the playoffs.
The one-hour, ten-minute win also somehow exacts a measure of revenge from last year’s four-game season sweep (two in the eliminations, two in the finals) against a seeming unbeatable Ateneo six. As DLSU ticks off beating the Lady Eagles off their Season 78 bucket list, the next item will be exacting revenge on the NU Lady Bulldogs; the team that gave La Salle its only blemish so far.
Wednesday’s game against UST will be held at the Filoil-Flying V Arena.
Animo La Salle!