The Lady Spikers failed to repeat as champions as they fell to a resurgent UST in 4 sets, 18-25, 14-25, 25-16, 15-25. Led by skipper Stephanie Mercado, the team put up a valiant stand but fell prey to the taller and more experienced UST team.
La Salle took the first point of the match, but that was the only time they would taste the lead in the opening set. Although the Lady Spikers managed to limit their errors to 7, the same number as UST, poor reception resulted in less points on the attacks, 5 to UST’s 14. Our team’s spikes were either partially blocked or easily retrieved. Blocking was not as effective at the start, allowing UST to build their momentum and confidence as their attacks penetrated our net defenses. Trailing at 10-12, UST scored on 3 spikes and an error by Gohing to lead at the 2nd technical timeout. The Lady Spikers pulled to within 16-19 before UST went to their powerful hitters to take the first set.
The 2nd set started off on a positive note, with the team taking the lead up to the first technical timout at 8-7. However, unforced errors from our service as well as a couple of errant spikes allowed UST to take the lead, 8-11 forcing Coach Ramil to call for time and advise the players to slow things down. He also fielded Cerveza, Yeung, Gumabao, and Diego in an effort to break the lethargic play of our team, to no avail. Uncertainty and a curious loss of concentration told on the team, as they yielded the second set 14-25. In this set, UST exploited a small weakness whenever our setter Martinez was in the frontline as they shifted the ball to her side and used their height advantage to power their shots over her. With momentum on their side, UST looked to sweep the Lady Spikers.
Our defending champions would not go down meekly. With their backs to the wall, the Lady Spikers came out breathing fire in the 3rd set. Versatile Cha Cruz was assigned the role of setter, and she ably quarterbacked the team to an 8-3 lead. Aggressive blocking by our players resulted in some frustration on the part of the UST frontliners, and with their confidence shaken, UST lapsed into errors to trail at 16-8. The weakness of having a shorter setter at the net was eliminated as Cruz successfully blocked several attempts by Banaticla. UST threatened last at 20-14, but a timeout by Coach Ramil steadied our players, and they limited UST to just 2 points from then on to take the 3rd set, 25-16. The aggressive, no-more-tomorrow attitude resulted in an 11-7 edge in attacks, 8-3 in blocks, but errors were still the bane of the team, 9-5.
Riding the momentum, the Lady Spikers sprinted to a 7-2 lead at the start of the 4th set. Consecutive errors (service and reception) as well as errant spikes allowed UST to catch up at 10-all before more miscues gave UST a 10-15 lead. Martinez was sent back as setter, and UST promptly went back to their previous tactics of targetting her area. It was at this point that nerves got the better of our players, and they gave away at least 5 points during the crucial stretch. With the momentum shift, UST’s confidence rose while our players were visibly affected by the sudden turnaround. Coach Ramil fielded in Zuno in a last ditch attempt to reverse the tide, but the loss of concentration proved fatal as UST pulled away to grab the championship via a sweep.
Despite the loss, the future looks bright for the Lady Spikers with the entry of the promising rookies. Hopefully our most senior players will return for a final run next season.
On a positive note, Joanne Siy was named as the tournament’s best blocker as well as rookie of the year.
To our Lady Spikers, we’re proud of the way you performed this season. We hope that most of you will be back next year to reclaim the crown. But win or lose, you’re our team!