Written by Neal Tieng
After the up-and-down performance of the Lady Spikers so far this season, many wondered which version would show up against the young but dangerous NU Lady Bulldogs last Wednesday. Would it be the team that shut out last year’s runner-up FEU in straight sets in the first round, or would it be the error-prone squad that coughed up 37 errors (including 17 service errors) to meekly surrender to UP last weekend?
We’re fortunate that it was the awesome Lady Spikers from La Salle who showed up to topple the unpredictable National U Lady Bulldogs in a dominating three straight set victory, 25-20, 25-18, 25-10. The win improved their record to 6-3.
After the stinging and unexpected straight sets loss to the UP Lady Maroons, La Salle entered the Fil-Oil Flying V Arena last Wednesday steadier and with a firm sense of purpose.
In an early indication of their serious intent, the Lady Spikers made sure they took charge early as they opened the first set at 10-4 starring the reliable duo of Captain Des Cheng and Tin Tiamzon, and the green and white squad continued to blaze through the NU defense and stretched the lead to 15-9.
But the inexperienced but talented volleybelles from Sampaloc overcame their early shock to chip away at the lead to 23-19. But the Lady Spikers proved to be steady down the stretch as super rookie Joline Dela Cruz scored off an attack and a service error by NU to seal the first set 25-20.
Captain Cheng hammered away to lead the Taft spikers to a 13-6 lead midway into the second set. The stubborn National U team mounted another rally and clipped the lead down to 21-18, before Cheng lead the closing charge with an attack while Tiamzon scored two straight points from the backrow to push La Salle to set point 24-18. And as NU was hoping for one last run to avoid getting into a deep two-set hole, the Captain scored after a phenomenal save by Dela Cruz to seal the set at 25-20.
Their inability to pressure the defending champions sapped the will of NU to compete, and the 3rd sete was strictly a formality. Out of momentum and running on fumes, NU yielded the set almost at the get-go as La Salle broke away 16-7 and walked home with win #6 at 25-10, emphatically finishing off a stubborn National U squad that had given La Salle headaches in their first round encounter by taking a set.
It was a game won by discipline and control as the Lady Spikers committed only 10 errors compared to NU’s 24 while remain dominating on the net outscoring NU 9-1 on points off blocks.
Our Captain Des Cheng was the Player of the Game scoring 17 points, scoring mostly on aggressive attacks while Tiamzon contributed 11.
THE QUEST FOR CONSISTENCY
Having a record that will have the twice-to-beat incentive hanging on the balance is not new for the defending champions and their multi-tilted coach Ramil De Jesus. Usually, the 6-3 slate should not be causing palpitations for the volleyball crazy fans along Taft Avenue.
However, this team is still a new batch of Lady Spikers still looking for consistency and championship form.
In the loss against UP, La Salle virtually committed volleyball hara-kiri by coughing up 37 errors, playing without composure and unable to channel their championship tradition into their game that day
Such are characteristics of a young team that lost their core after last season. Aside from losing Kim Dy and Majoy Baron at the net, La Salle has been looking for a facsimile of the exceptional floor coverage of Dawn Macandili as the Lady Spikers’ floor and net defense proved to be vulnerable to attacks by the likes of UP’s Tots Carlos and Yssa Molde.
But the season is far from over.
Titles are not won during the eliminations, said Captain Des Cheng as the Lady Spikers look to rediscover their championship form with the tournament entering the crucial stages.
We have a champion team with a champion coach. Defending the crown might not be easy, but it is well within our control.
And this will start with a crucial encounter with tournament surprise darkhorse, UST Golden Tigresses, on Sunday at 4pm at the Mall of Asia Arena, with the revenge-seeking Lady Spikers looking to sustain momentum in this late push in Season 81.
ANIMO LA SALLE!!!