Eyes on the Prize: DLSU seeks 3-peat

The DLSU Lady Spikers will storm to the semifinals against NU Lady Bulldogs with fully-loaded arsenal to dispense.

Clinching a twice-to-beat advantage for their first place elimination finish, the Lady Spikers only need one win to secure another Finals berth.

If and when the Taft-based squad overcomes the pesky Lady Bulldogs, it will mark their 10th consecutive Finals appearance.

From there, anything could happen.

They could be defeated by either Ateneo or FEU, who will clash tomorrow, or take home the trophy for another three-peat.

But, everyone knows, they prefer winning.

STEPPING UP

Winning the UAAP 79 crown also signalled the departure of Kim Fajardo, one of the country’s most sougt after playmaker.

When Fajardo ended her colorful collegiate career, the Lady Spikers also bade goodbye to a solid, reliable leader.

This key loss did not weather DLSU, the best program in the country for the past two decades, winning 10 titles in 20 years.

Stepping up are Majoy Baron, Kim Dy and Dawn Macandili who provided the leadership for the three-peat seeking DLSU.

Baron, who inherited the skipper role of Fajardo, was the Lady Spiker’s go-to girl for composure during crunch moments.

The reigning MVP was the epitome of calm and fierceness – a combination of Ara Galang and Aby MaraƱo’s leadership skills.

Whilst Baron manned the middle and lead the team at the same time, Dy and Macandili, who donned the national colors during off season, delivered the goods in scoring and floor defense, respectively.

The troika got a lot of help from Des Cheng, the undisputed Swag Queen of the season.

Michelle Cobb, meanwhile, filled a much bigger void.

The sophomore setter, who was Fajardo’s understudy last season, cracked into the starting lineup to orchestrate the offense of La Salle.

Aduke Ogunsanya and Tin Tiamzon, who was replaced ocassionally by May Luna, continue to improve game by game to help in DLSU’s bid.

For the first time since Season 76, the Lady Spikers topped the standings after eliminations with a 12-2 win-loss record.

There is one clear thing from all of these: as long as DLSU has seasoned mentor Ramil de Jesus and his program, they will always – always – be a contender.

BARANGAY NO MORE

“Pam-barangay lang ang laro niyo, doon lang kayo bagay, hindi kayo bagay sa UAAP.”

This was coach Ramil’s much talked about post-game interview following a shocking four-set loss from Adamson Lady Falcons during the first round of eliminations.

Prior to this, the green-and-white squad bowed to NU despite leading by four points in the decider frame.

But looking at their previous outings, the reigning champs has played sluggishly: five-set games with FEU and UST, a very tight match against UP, and a straight yet unconvincing win from UE.

There are gaps in their net defense, their outside hitters are underperforming, and their new setter is still learning the ropes.

For the first good part of the eliminations, DLSU didn’t play like champions.

In fact, more than the flaws in their overall performances, the heart of a champion is missing.

After that loss against Adamson, though, UAAP saw a different Lady Spiker as they downed their opponents in an emphatic fashion.

The Lady Spikers dominated the second round of the eliminations, showing off a preview of their championship form.

The green-and-white squad bested their rivals Ateneo Lady Eagles twice; a four-set win in the first round and a straight set victory in the second round.

They avenged their first meeting loss against NU with a sweep, squashed Adamson’s Final Four dreams, and dispatched UST, UP, and UE in straight sets.

Now on an eight-game winning streak, they capped off the second round blemish-free, only dropping three sets (two from FEU, one from ADU) for a 12-2 record.

A small spark is what it took for the Lady Spikers to combust.

They will strut to the semifinals with burning hearts, and anybody who stands in their way to three-peat will probably get burn marks.

CHAMPIONSHIP READY

Unsurprisingly, La Salle showed its dominance across the team skills department statistics all throughout the eliminations.

After round 2 of the eliminations, the Taft-based squad is the best server in the league with a total of 144 aces equivalent to 2.72 aces per set.

Their hard-to-beat floor defense and service reception were both on top of the rankings. Led by libero Macandili, they make 15.28 digs per set and holds a 36.94% efficiency in reception.

Because of their impeccable net and defense, La Salle also sits at the head of the setting department with 9.42 excellent sets per set.

Ateneo, though, has taken over the best blocking team from La Salle, who ranked second with 116 stuff blocks or 2.19 blocks per set by the end of the elimination phase.

With 29.53% efficiency, the reigning champs are fourth in spiking department, a category they haven’t topped for the past few years.

This skills statistics alone guarantee the green-and-white squad at least another Finals appearance en route to three-peat title.

With their semifinals opponent, NU, positioned at the bottom of the receiving and digging division, expect tough serves sharp, loaded arrows from the service line in order to contain the hard hitting Santiago.

Everyone knows what a team like La Salle is capable of.

But they always – always – have suprises in store.

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