Sunday, May 07, 2017

DLSU Lady Spikers are Back-to-Back UAAP Volleyball Champs

Congratulations to the De La Salle University Lady Spikers for winning the UAAP Season 79 Women's Volleyball Tournament. The DSLU Lady Spikers are now back-to-back champions, adding to the championship they won last year. This marked the 6th consecutive year that DLSU faced off against the Ateneo Lady Eagles in the finals. It also marked the 10th championship that DLSU has won with Ramil De Jesus as coach.

This year's road to the finals and to the championship was not easy. DLSU lost to Ateneo twice during the elimination rounds. With these two university rivals battling it out in the finals, it seemed Ateneo had the mental edge because La Salle wasn't able to figure out how to beat them during the early part of the season. And after the first set and a half of their opening finals match last May 2, it seemed like Ateneo were on their way to reclaiming the title they won in Seasons 76 and 77. However, DLSU captain Kim Fajardo took matters into her own hands and helped her team gain the confidence they were missing to overcome the Lady Eagles in a very, very fiercely contested second set. It didn't help Ateneo that the officials made two bad calls towards the end of that competitive second set. Once the third set started, the Lady Spikers had gained the rhythm and confidence they needed and they found their range, allowing them to take the next two sets and the win.

The second finals game was even tighter, Ateneo and La Salle split the first two sets and it all boiled down to a fifth set. La Salle took a commanding early lead and were up 10-4 before Ateneo fought back hard to get back to 10-8. In the end, La Salle managed to steady and compose themselves. They won 5 of the next 7 points to win the trophy and give captain Kim Fajardo the best possible send-off, since she was playing in her final playing year.

To add to this incredible result, three DLSU players received four individual awards for the season and if you include the finals MVP award, that makes four. Majoy Baron was awarded season MVP, Kim Fajardo got two awards - Best Setter and Best Server - and Dawn Macandili won Best Receiver. The finals MVP was awarded to Desiree Cheng. NU's Jaja Santiago, took home 3 awards: Best Scorer, Best Spiker, and Best Blocker (if NU just did a bit better, like maybe make it to the semis, Jaja could have taken home the MVP Award as well). Kat Arado from UE won Best Digger and Ateneo's Jules Samonte bagged Rookie of the Year.

The sad news is that a few hours after the finals, Jia Morado announced that she will no longer be playing next year. As per UAAP rules, she could still play for one more year even if she graduated already but she opted to forego her fifth playing year. She was a very close second best setter of the season and a very close second best server of the season and she also ends up with the runner-up trophy. With Kim Fajardo not playing anymore next season, I was almost certain that Jia would be a lock for best setter in UAAP Season 80 but alas, it will not happen anymore. Good luck, Jia!

With both Kim Fajardo and Jia Morado, two of the best setters we've ever seen in UAAP, not returning next year, it will be very interesting to see what will happen. The other teams might just nudge one or both of this year's finalists out of the top 2 next year. But that's also what people said would happen this year since both La Salle and Ateneo lost a lot of volleyball stars at the end of last season - Ara Galang, Mika Reyes, Cyd Demecillo, Carol Cerveza, Mika Esperanza, Alyssa Valdez, Amy Ahomiro, and Mae Tajima - and yet they proved their naysayers wrong. Both universities have very strong recruitment and training programs so I am looking forward to seeing what will happen next year.

Congratulations, DLSU Lady Spikers and congratulations, Coach Ramil!

No comments: