How does it feel like climbing a steep mountain and losing your grip just as you are about to reach its peak?
Adamson Lady Falcons know exactly how that feels.
The last time Adamson scored a Final Four berth was in Season 76 during Bang Pineda, May Macatuno and Mayette Zapanta’s final year playing in the UAAP.
They finished fourth.
The next three seasons, though, saw a limping Adamson squad: a head coach who bolted out midseason, veteran Mylene Paat and Fhen Emnas skipping, less experienced Team B players forced to take over, premature season exit of May Roque due to ACL injury.
Wings broken, the Lady Falcons were the cellar dwellers two seasons in a row after a combined dismal 4-24 win-loss record.
Eager to bring the old Falcon winning culture back, Adamson tapped an all-woman coaching staff composed of fomer UAAP stars with American guru Airess Padda at the helm.
Slowly but surely, they nursed their broken wings until they could soar high again, this time with newly found confidence and solid lineup – the strongest they had in years.
Joy Dacoron and libero Thang Ponce blossomed under the tutelage of Padda, while Jema Galanza emerged into a deadlier triple-double performing open spiker.
Paat and Emnas, meanwhile, returned to the San Marcelino nest for another tour of duty.
A pair of prized recruit, Chiara Permentilla and Eli Soyud, a former Lady Spiker, further strengthened their bid for redemption.
The squad also saw significant actions in Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference where they showed glimpses of brilliance after winning six consecutive matches before bowing out in the semifinals.
On paper, these ladies were more than capable of overthrowing big squads like La Salle and Ateneo.
With a line-up consisting of veteran and more experienced spikers, Adamson was a legit Final Four contender in season 80 as volleyball pundits claim.
So what, exactly, happened to them and their hope of reclaiming a lost glory?
STRONG FIRST FLIGHT
“I just say that anything is possible. Obviously, we have more talent on the team this year, and we have seasoned players,” the American mentor said in an interview.
“We have all the pieces now. We definitely have game changers on our team. They’re superstars,” Padda added.
True enough, the Lady Falcons soared back into the winning column.
The Lady Falcons recovered from a four-set loss to NU and eke out a thrilling five-setter game against FEU off the heroics of their skipper, Jemma Galanza, who tallied 26 points, 15 digs and 17 receptions.
Veteran Mylene Paat topscored during their straight-set victory against UP with 15 markers for the navy-blue-and-white squad’s second win.
Touting a pair of losses from UST and ADMU, Adamson executed a perfect bounce back win and defeated DLSU in four hard-earned sets. Eli Soyud, a former spiker from Taft, led all scorers with 18 points.
With Galanza, Paat, Soyud and Permentilla scoring in bunches, and Ponce, Dacoron and Emnas performing well in their respective positions, the Lady Falcons looked ready to march back to the semifinals and to the finals even.
Adamson received early welcome-back-to-Final-Four greetings after their emphatic run.
But maybe, just maybe, those greetings were way too early.
The Adamson squad who beat the defending champs were non-existent during their match against UE, tallying tournament-high 52 errors or giving away more than two sets.
Some Lady Falcons, Padda revealed, didn’t attend team practices the days following their victory against DLSU.
Hoping to discipline the team and realign their focus to the ultimate goal, the American coach fielded second stringers.
The usual suspects were inserted back on a losing effort. UE, the lone team they defeated last season, ousted them in five sets.
Tots Carlos and UP also exacted revenge against the Lady Falcons, winning their second match-up in five sets.
Adamson pocketed two consecutive wins from UE and NU before falling into a three-game losing skid, two games of which they could’ve won if not for their greatest enemy: their selves.
“I guess the curse of Adamson is that we don’t have a winning culture and when you’re trying to create a winning culture our teams just gets too excited. They get too complacent and they feel like they’ve already won the game,” a frustrated Padda said after her team squandered a chance to pull a stunner against Ateneo.
A couple of win is all Adamson needs to crack into the semifinals and end the three-year drought.
Had they won another one or two of the seven five-setter matches they played, the Lady Falcons are probably in the Final Four right now.
But they didn’t, so they aren’t.
This season, Adamson has to bid farewell to its seniors Galanza, Paat, Emnas and Jellie Tempiatura, the last breed of Lady Falcons who had been in the Final Four.
If there is something Galanza is most grateful for, it would be Padda’s arrival at the Falcons’ nest.
“She’s always given me so much trust even though I became quite rebellious but she was always there for me and I never saw her gave up on me,” Galanza said in Filipino.
But Padda said her future with the Lady Falcona is uncertain, blaming herself for the team’s failure.
“I don’t know and I’m not sure if I am what they want for their program,” said Padda, who steered Adamson from a 1-12 win-loss record last season to 6-8 this year.
“I haven’t thought of it yet but I’m not making any plan. I’m not gonna assume that I’m out of the job. I hope not,” said Padda.
Menwhile, Joy Dacoron could either forego her remaining playing year or choose to stay to lead the new generation of Lady Falcons.
If and when Dacoron decides to return, she, Soyud, Permentilla and Ponce will be bannering Adamson together with May Roque and Bernadette Flora.
Adamson fell short in returning to Final Four this season, but it’s a thing of the past now. It’s time to shrug off the what ifs.
Check for broken bones, spread your wings and soar like a Falcon.
There is work to be done.