A timely service ace by Lady Eagle Marge Tejada doused any hopes of a La Salle comeback in the second set. The ball went sailing over the net and bounced off the hands of a Lady Spiker before hitting the arena’s immaculate floor.
And in the midst of the din of the raucous crowd at that had packed the stands of the Fil-Oil Arena, the gravity of their situation finally dawned on the DLSU Lady Spikers: They were down two sets to none, their streak of fifteen undefeated sets had been brought crashing down like a wall of sand by these Lady Eagles, and another set of miscues would inevitably hand them their second loss of the season.
If there was any hope of overhauling the huge deficit that they faced, they would have to start their steep climb in the very next set.
The points came slowly trickling in at the onset of the third, with two-time Best Blocker Michelle Gumabao scoring off the perfectly placed sets of rookie Kim Fajardo. Then came a flurry of thunderous attacks from Season 74 Rookie of the Year Ara Galang which were complemented by the stingy defense of Mika Reyes. And after a nifty back set by Fajardo led to another kill by Gumabao, the Lady Spiker had already established an imposing ten-point lead, the biggest by any team in the hotly-contested match.
The confidence that had been sapped from these Lady Spikers was once more visible, their unforced errors had been whittled down to only a handful, and their offense had been kicked into high gear. The lead of their rivals evaporated and a fifth set, which only hours ago seemed a far-fetched possibility, was finally in the offing.
It was the Lady Eagles’ fourth match that went the full distance, while it was only the first for La Salle, their last being that opening day loss to the Tigresses. The Lady Spikers established a four-point lead several times in the set, but Ateneo found ways to keep in step despite missing the services of senior player Fille Cainglet.
But as Gumabao finally scored a kill that ricocheted off the hands of Lady Eagles Gretchen Ho, Dzi Gervacio, and Jorella De Jesus before finally hitting the floor, it was the Lady Spikers who stood tall and gave credence to that saying that you should never underestimate the heart of a champion.
In a rematch of last year’s finals, the Lady Spikers relinquished the first two sets before mounting a stirring comeback to ultimately topple the Lady Eagles and win their sixth straight match, 26-28, 21-25, 25-13, 25-21, 15-13 earlier today before a crowd of about 8,000 at the Fil-Oil Flying V Arena.
Galang, who was one of the catalysts for the La Salle comeback, paced the Lady Spikers with 18 points, with 14 attacks, three blocks, and a service ace. Reyes contributed 16 points, with 12 kills and four rejections, while team captain Abi Maraño and Gumabao netted 12 and 10, respectively. The Lady Spikers also drew good games from second stringers Fajardo, who had eight points as well as 42 excellent sets, as well as Cyd Demecillo.
After committing a combined 25 unforced errors in the first two sets, the Lady Spikers committed only 13 in the next two, which allowed them to forge a tie with Ateneo, which was bannered by a game-high 23 points from the tournament’s leading scorer Alyssa Valdez, which included 16 attacks, four services aces, and three blocks. Cainglet, who went down awkwardly on her right ankle near the end of the fourth set, finished with 16 markers.
With the win against their last assignment for the first round of eliminations, La Salle tied the win-loss record of their victims, which now stands at 6-1, which is good enough for first in the standings. Tomorrow marks the last play date of the first round, after which the schedule for the next round and the Lady Spikers’ next opponent will be determined.