Sunday, May 01, 2016

Congratulations, DLSU Lady Spikers! S78 Champions!

Wow, what an amazing result. After two years of heartbreak, the DLSU Lady Spikers reclaimed the UAAP Women's Volleyball crown in the winner-take-all game 3 of the finals against chief rivals Ateneo Lady Eagles. Congratulations!

photo taken by Ryan Ong of Go Archers

This was an epic season for the Lady Spikers. They became a frontrunner after beating Ateneo decisively in round 1, their first win against the Lady Eagles since Game 2 of Season 76 (a streak of 6 straight losses). However, losses to NU and UST and then later on to Ateneo in the 2nd round meant they had to face off against FEU in the final four. When FEU came back from 0-2 to beat DLSU in their first semifinal game, nullifying DLSU's twice-to-beat advantage, I was worried that the Lady Spikers would suffer a lapse in confidence. My concerns were all for naught as they managed to steady themselves and beat FEU to meet Ateneo again in the finals for the fifth year in a row. They won the first game in straight sets and it looked like they were going to thrash the Lady Eagles after taking a 2 sets to love lead in game 2. Unfortunately for the ladies in green, the legendary phenom Alyssa Valdez shifted gears and the Lady Spikers couldn't keep up, causing them to lose another 5-set match after leading 2-0. When Ateneo won the first game set of the final game, I got worried since it was the first time that DLSU lost the first set against Ateneo this season. Maybe it was their experience playing FEU that helped them remain steady and focused, but after they took the 2nd set, it was Ateneo who looked out of sorts as the Great Wall of Taft proved quite impregnable. While the DLSU Lady Spikers have looked shaky in parts this season, their true strength has been their ability to find ways to beat teams that had beaten them. They never lost two games in a row against the same team this season. Talk about intensity and competitiveness.

Quite possibly my favorite clip from the final. Look at the ferocity from Cyd Demecillo and especially Mika Reyes. Even Doc Ian Laurel was impressed. 

The great thing about this win is that it allows them to give an amazing send off to their senior players: Mika Reyes, Ara Galang, Cyd Demecillo, Mika Esperanza, and Carol Cerveza. I am happy that all these women started out as champions and ended their UAAP careers as champions. It's also sort of a great comeback for Ara Galang who suffered a horrific knee injury towards the end of last season, resulting in her not being able to play in the finals. The tough thing for DLSU now is that they are losing more players this year than any other UAAP volleyball team. On a positive note, the squad that plays next year will still include this year's best blocker (Mary Joy Baron), the best digger and best receiver (Dawn Macandili), the finals MVP (Kim Dy) and possibly the best setter (Kim Fajardo, who I think hasn't made up her mind yet whether she wants to play on her 5th playing year). Still, I will miss seeing the graduating players of DLSU, most especially Mika Reyes and Ara Galang who, along with Kim Fajardo, formed the Taft Trio.

I will say though that as happy as I am for DLSU, I feel bad for Alyssa Valdez. Quite possibly the greatest female player the Philippines has produced so far (3 MVPs, 1 Finals MVP, 4 scoring titles, 3 best server awards, and 2 championships, you can't argue with those stats), Alyssa was also playing in her last season. I'm sure she and many of her fans would have wanted her to end her UAAP career with a win, but DLSU just played stronger as a team, with all attackers scoring at least 9 points each in that last game and even setter Kim Fajardo getting 6 points of her own. I think there's an online clamor for Ateneo to retire Alyssa's jersey and I completely support that.

A couple of my favorite moments this season:

Reyes... to Fajardo! (In a classic case of role reversal, Mika Reyes sets to Kim Fajardo who scores a spiking point from a set play.)

Dawn Macandili's legendary kick save

Congratulations once again to the DLSU Lady Spikers! To the graduating players, good luck in all your future endeavors.

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