Article by Neal Tieng, Photos by Derick Cajucom
They said that it will be a new, more difficult era for the De La Salle Lady Spikers after losing more than half of their starting six to graduation last season.
They said that the teams with their loud off-season conquests are the teams to beat.
Not on this hot Sunday afternoon last weekend.
The De La Salle Lady Spikers showed that it is not success in any stellar offseason league that makes a champion, but rather a winning system that counts the most. The defending champions proved this as they started their season on fire by smashing the Lady Eagles from Ateneo in four sets, 25-14, 25-17, 16-25, 25-19.
As soon as the first serve was tossed in the Mall of Asia Arena last Sunday, La Salle’s grand scheme to dismantle the Ateneo defense kicked into gear as the Lady Spikers zoomed to an 8-4 lead, capped by a drop shot from starting setter Michelle Cobb.
And the La Salle locomotive just kept on going full steam ahead despite stiffer resistance from Ateneo, turning a 10-9 game into a 16-10 margin on Aduke Ogunsanya’s very timely middle attacks.
Despite losing the signature La Salle frontline of Kim Dy and Majoy Baron, Des Cheng found a new reinforcement in super rookie Jolina Dela Cruz, who finished the game with 11 points as well as capping a stunning 6-1 finishing kick run to close the opening set at 25-14 as the Lady Spikers made early target practice of the Ateneo defense and forced them into 12 errors while scoring on 8.
In the second set, Ateneo engaged La Salle and kept pace at 15-all via Kat Tolentino backrow attacks, but that would be the their only resistance in the second. The trio of Cheng, Dela Cruz, and May Luna unleashed well spotted attacks to bomb the blue defense to submission. An ace from rookie Dela Cruz sparked the deciding 10-2 run which was highlighted by a Cheng block on Ateneo’s Tolentino as the blues wilted under pressure.
Succumbing to a series of service and attack errors, Ateneo eventually yielded the set when Luna scored on a backrow attack to take the second set 25-17.
The Lady Spikers practically handed Ateneo the 3rd set at 16-25 with their 11 errors, as they fell victim to complacency. Unfazed, the Lady Spike fired warning shots in the fourth set with a crosscourt attack by Cheng followed by two service aces by setter Michelle Cobb to grab a quick 3-0. But any game against an arch rival was never going down easy. Ateneo fed off from the constant backrow attack of Kat Tolentino and crosscourt slams of Jules Samonte to keep the game close at 11-9.
By then, the Lady Spikers said enough.
Luna shredded the Katipunan defense once again finding holes at the backrow while Cobb showed her vast improvement in elevation blocking Ateneo’s Samonte and Bea De Leon and in that span that built an 18-12 lead deep into the 4th.
Smelling Eagle blood, it was time for the captain to close it out. Cheng’s two attack points and a service ace snuffed the life out of Ateneo and clinched the set and the match at 25-19.
Cheng paced all Lady Spikers with 13 points while Luna and Dela Cruz both chipped in 11 each. La Salle outscored Ateneo on attacks 40-28 and flourished in their serve connecting on 15 aces to Ateneo’s 7.
La Salle will square off against Adamson at 2pm at the Flying V San Juan Arena this coming Saturday, February 23, 2019 in a game that would test the Lady Spikers’ killer instincts.
ANIMO LA SALLE!!!