With all due respect to the DLSU Lady Spikers’ opponents this week, Adamson and UE, anything less than convincing and dominating straight set wins will be something of a letdown. The defending UAAP women’s volleyball champions were clinical and merciless against the rebuilding Lady Falcons 25-12, 25-16, 25-15 last Wednesday and took care of another winless team, the Lady Warriors, 25-18, 25-14, 25-16 yesterday at the Fil-Oil Arena.
Continuing their sharp, balanced form after a shocking loss to the UP Lady Maroons, the team has zoomed up to the top of the league standings thanks to the contributions of second-year players Aduke Ogunsanya (11 points including three services aces against Adamson) and Tin Tiamson (11 points versus UE) combined with the steady production from reliables Kim Dy, Majoy Baron, and team captain Kim Fajardo.
Defense at the net (Dy, Baron and Ogunsanya in the Top 10 of Best Blockers*) and excellent floor coverage from super libero Dawn Macandili has been the calling card of the nine-time UAAP champions. Despite not being in the Top 3 in spiking (5th) and serving (4th), La Salle has put up its vaunted Green Wall once again, denying their opponents with a league-leading 2.69 blocks per set.
Receiving efficiency (1st at 40.21%) and digging (3rd with 13.56 excellent digs per set) as a team just show that everyone can be depended on to provide good floor defense aside from Macandili (1st in receiving efficiency at 47.86% and second in excellent digs with 5.44 per set).
Fajardo, last season’s Best Setter and playing in her final year, continues to compose and orchestrate masterpiece after masterpiece for the La Salle six; and even found a few sets her way when rookie Michelle Cobb took the setting duties and Kim played open hitter in the latter stages of the game against UE.
Finishing the first round of eliminations strong
The thought of losing five players to graduation as long been forgotten in the minds of the players as well as the coaching staff as the team has risen to the top of the rankings, sporting a 5-1 win-loss record, with a looming match-up with an equally long and tall Ateneo squad wrapping up La Salle’s first round campaign.
DLSU, even with less experience on its roster and other teams catching up of both skill and talent, are on equal pace to last year’s Mika Reyes and Ara Galang-led team, and can even solidify their holding on the standings by notching this season’s win number six. Against the co-league leaders, the Lady Spikers are facing a familiar foe who have likewise lost several marque players in their roster.
Aside from the first meeting of the finalists from the previous five years (La Salle taking Seasons 74, 75, and 78 and Ateneo winning back-to-back in Seasons 76 and 77), the subplots and individual matches of the league’s top two setters, Kim Fajardo (2nd with 11.56 excellent sets) and the Lady Eagles’ Jia Morado (1st with 12.00 excellent sets) and the Ramil de Jesus-Tai Bundit tactical battle should provide enough fireworks and motivation to win.
The Katipunan-based squad now boast of tall frontline players, capable of challenging Season 78 Finals MVP Kim Dy and company. With both squads featuring almost equal firepower on offense, great net blocking and coverage plus Dawn Macandili and her defensive abilities may be La Salle’s best weapon to grab the upper hand.
Whether they continue the tradition of being the league’s marquee matchup sans their graduated stars or fail to live up to “the hype”, Saturday’s game should be fun. The DLSU Lady Spikers face the Ateneo Lady Eagles on March 4 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena at 4PM.
Animo La Salle!
* Statistics as of February 24, 2017.