The much-anticipated matchup between bitter rivals Ateneo and La Salle did not live up to the billing as the expected long drawn out match was over sooner than what was predicted.
What was more surprising was how the Lady Spikers dominated the Lady Eagles across all skill sets to take home the 25-22, 25, 14, 25-18 victory that snapped the defending champions’ 24-game win streak.
Even La Salle head coach Ramil de Jesus thought he’d need to go through the eye of a needle before pulling off an upset.
“Hindi ko ine-expect kasi alam namin kung mananalo man kami dadaan kami sa pinakamahirap na pagdadaanan para manalo,” he told the press.
The Taft squad came into the 1st round tussle as the clear underdog having lost to Ateneo 6 straight times since Season 76.
Suffering from low self-esteem after having lost 2 finals showdowns in a row, De Jesus and his staff’s problem was to uplift their wards and push the girls to come firing from the get-go.
“Alam naman natin na ‘yung confidence ng mga bata medyo mataas. ‘Yun ang lagi kong sinasabi sa mga bata. Hindi tayo pwede pumasok sa loob ng court na alam nating dehado tayo,” de Jesus said, talking about the Lady Eagles’ mental edge.
“Kailangan papasok tayo dun, parehas ang laban. Hindi pwedeng iniisip niyo na malabo tayong manalo,” he added. “Lahat naman pinagpaguran nila. Binuhos namin ‘yung effort dun sa Ateneo.”
More than tarnishing the then spotless record of the Katipunan crew, the multi-titled coach’s main goal was to bring back the confidence of his wards which went missing after they lost the title back in Season 76.
“Sabi ko kailangan bumalik ‘yung kumpyansa sa mga bata. Ibalik ‘yung respect sa kanila ng mga opponents, ‘yun ang lagi kong sinasabi,” shared de Jesus. “Mahirap ‘yung palagi kang naghahanda tapos by the end, kapos palagi.”
“Gusto ko lang ‘yung respeto ng maibalik sa bawat isa.”
Team captain Kim Fajardo showed why she was worthy to be the leader of the pack after the setter top scored with 13 points on top of her 16 excellent sets.
For Ateneo, Valdez remained to be its main source of points as the outside hitter tallied 11 points which was far from her 17 ppg average prior to the match.
On shutting the doors on Valdez, the mentor says, “Alam naman natin ‘yung Ateneo kasi almost 50% ng attacks nakay Alyssa (Valdez). Pag napigil mo si Alyssa, mas madaling ma-control ang Ateneo.”
“Eh nawala din sila ng receive. Pag dumating naman ‘yung meron silang first ball, nakapwesto naman din ‘yung blocking,” he added.
And if it was not yet obvious during the match, de Jesus also admitted that the game plan was to serve hard to disrupt the plays of the best spiking team in the league.
“Merong konting extra training sa loaded service. Nasa plano kasi na sirain ‘yung reception ng kalaban,” shared the coach.
“Based naman kasi dun sa statistics hindi naman ganun kagaling sila rumeceive. #1 sila sa attack pero hindi ganun kagaling sa receive,” he closed. — By Mac Dionisio