in GoArchers, Volleyball

DLSU Lady Spikers: Same Team, Different Challenge

Last season summary: 11-3; finished second in the elimination round; defeated the Tigresses in the Final Four; defeated the Ateneo Lady Eagles in the Finals in two games to win the school’s 10th women’s volleyball title;

Additions: Rovena Andrea Instrella

Departures: Kim Fajardo

Holdovers: Mary Joy Baron, Kim Kianna Dy, Dawn Macandili, Desiree Cheng, Norielle Ipac, May Luna, Carmel June Saga, Ernestine Tiamzon, Michelle Cobb, Aduke Ogunsanya, Arriane Layug, Gyra Barroga, Justine Tiu

Background

The day after the DLSU Lady Spikers won the title in UAAP Season 78, Kim Kianna Dy, then the newly-minted Finals MVP, started a hashtag on Twitter. It’s not clear if a hashtag generator was used or if it was an organically created hashtag but either way, it certainly grabbed the attention of the account’s followers.

#KAF1MoreYear, it read.

Setter and team captain Kim Fajardo was still undecided when it came to playing her fifth and final year, and Dy and the rest of her teammates let her to know how they felt. So did the team’s fans. The hashtag was liked and retweeted thousands of times. Dy even composed a song for Fajardo and sang on national television.

In the end, the hashtag and subsequent campaign bore fruit as Fajardo decided to stay to try to give La Salle one more championship. With Fajardo back, the Lady Spikers were seen as the favorites to repeat despite the loss of veterans Ara Galang, Mika Reyes, Cyd Demecillo, Mika Esperanza, Carol Cerveza, and the departure of Christine Soyud.

La Salle did capture its 10th Women’s Volleyball title, but lost in the warm glow of victory was the difficult road that they took to get to the Promised Land. Three games into Season 79, the team suffered a sobering straight sets loss to the UP Lady Maroons, and were swept in the elimination round by the Ateneo Lady Eagles, with their arch-rivals taking both games in four sets.

The Lady Spikers still finished the elimination round with an 11-3 record, good enough for second and a coveted twice-to-beat spot in the Final Four, but as they headed into the postseason, there were questions on whether they could handle the Lady Eagles in what was seen as another inevitable Finals clash.

But sometimes, it truly is not about how you start, but how you finish. And what a strong finishing kick the Lady Spikers had in Season 79. After disposing of the UST Tigresses in four sets in the Final Four, they swept the Lady Eagles in the Finals. All the questions about how they lost leads against Ateneo in the elimination round were emphatically answered.

Fajardo rode off into the sunset with her third UAAP title, while the rest of the team shone under the spotlight. Mary Joy Baron won the Season MVP, Desiree Cheng punctuated her first season back from injury with the Finals MVP Award, and libero Dawn Macandili bagged the Best Receiver plum.

The good news is that Baron, Cheng, Dy, and Macandili and almost everyone on the team will be back for Season 80, with only Fajardo leaving Taft Avenue. The bad news is that Fajardo, a three-time Best Setter who has also played in the PSL and the national team, will not be easy to replace.

Outlook

Despite the absence of Fajardo, however, the Lady Spikers are still the favorites entering Season 80. Baron, Dy, Cheng, and Macandili are all returning, while most of the team’s holdovers also got to see action in the Finals and played for the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers in the Philippine Super Liga (PSL), another team that head coach Ramil De Jesus piloted to a championship. Macandili even showed her wares in the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Women’s Volleyball Championships last year, where she bagged the Second Best Libero Award.

Baron, Dy, and Macandili will don the Green-and-White for a final time, and the rest of the team wants nothing more than to give their seniors a fitting send-off: another UAAP title. They will fill in the void left by Fajardo as far as leadership is concerned. When it comes to Fajardo’s on-court production, the onus will fall on sophomore setter Michelle Cobb.

Cobb already saw action last season for the Lady Spikers, but she was expected to provide quality minutes back then. Now, the spotlight is trained on the St. Scholastica’s College-Manila graduate as La Salle’s primary setter. How quickly she can adjust to her new role will be integral to the team’s success. But with a year of experience under her belt, a talented coaching staff guiding her, and talented teammates surrounding her, it’s not hard to see Cobb quickly making her presence felt for the Lady Spikers.

De Jesus will likewise face a challenge of his own, as he will be handling both the Lady Spikers in the UAAP and the F2 squad in the upcoming PSL Grand Prix, which will also begin this month.

For the third time in his coaching career, De Jesus will look to lead La Salle to a three-peat. One thing that has defined his tenure as the team’s mentor is his ability to develop players to replace the production of graduating seniors. It’s interesting to see whether Cobb and the team’s younger players can join that list.

The Road to the Three-Peat Starts Here

La Salle’s defense of the UAAP women’s volleyball title begins tomorrow, February 3, when they take on the UST Tigresses, 4p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.