DLSU Lady Spikers draw first blood in their championship series against ADMU Lady Eagles. (Photo By Chuckie Vitto)
MANILA – The biggest rivalry in collegiate sports once again figured in a much-anticipated showdown for Game 1 of the Finals of UAAP Season 78 on Saturday.
With one win apiece in the tournament, the Ateneo Lady Eagles and the De La Salle Lady Spikers showed familiarity in each other’s game, but it was the Taft-based squad which pounced on their opponent’s weakness to take the victory in straight sets, 22-25, 22-25, 21-25.
“Mas relax yung mga bata kanina. Down kami, kaya early timeout ako kanina nung 4-0,” said Coach Ramil de Jesus of the Lady Spikers. De Jesus cited the jittery start of his team in the first set when Ateneo opened the match with four straight points.
Since then, the Lady Spikers played composed throughout the game despite being down in the early goings of each set.
“Last time, sinabi ko na lahat ng set na nakuha namin is down yung kalaban. So, malaking bagay samin yung down kami then kumapit para manalo,” the veteran coach of La Salle said.
La Salle, who finished the eliminations as the top blocking team of the tournament, relied on their net defense to limit the lethal Ateneo offense throughout the game. This included the team’s six block points in first set, and four block points in the second set against Ateneo’s lone block point for the two sets combined.
While the Lady Eagles had an easy outing in the Final Four round against the UP Lady Maroons, La Salle had to win in a rubber match against a very inspired FEU Lady Tamaraws on Wednesday to enter into the Finals. But former league Most Valuable Player Ara Galang, who tallied 10 points with seven excellent digs and 11 excellent receptions, thought this was a blessing in disguise.
“Ginising kami para hindi kalimutan yung goal namin,” the Pampanga-native admitted.
With a huge victory in front of the 19,961 crowd in attendance at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, De Jesus acknowledged that it is a big morale booster for the Lady Speakers. “Bumalik yung tiwala ng bawat player ko. Napakahirap kasi makuha yun eh, lalo na kung ganitong back-to-back champion yung kakalabanin mo.”
But despite the steady play of the veterans, it was La Salle’s young core who provided propelled the team in the match. Rising superstars Kim Dy and Majoy Baron stood tall for the Lady Spikers with consecutive attacks and block points in the crucial moments. Dy top-scored for La Salle with 15 points, while Baron tallied 10 points in five attacks, three block points, and two service aces.
Given that the core of the team is graduating this season, De Jesus hopes La Salle can win it all in Game 2 of the Best-of-Three Finals series. “Sana sa amin naman itong year na ito,” he ended.