Lady Archers rule
THEY’VE finally put behind them two seasons of pain and heartbreak. They’ve also silenced critics who questioned their heart and counted them out after a monumental Game 2 collapse.
For the La Salle Lady Spikers, it’s just about time to write a different story.
Although anxiety and nerves got through them in some stretches, the Lady Spikers found strength in each other to overcome the league’s best team with the best player.
“Personally, I doubted myself but I never doubted my team,” said star Lady Spiker Ara Galang as La Salle dethroned rival Ateneo, 19-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-16, to capture the UAAP Season 78 women’s volleyball championship yesterday at the jampacked Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ateneo’s three-time Most Valuable Player Alyssa Valdez, indeed, can make any team doubt after showcasing another epic performance in front of a passionate record crowd of 22,848.
The Lady Spikers came prepared this time, making sure there will be no repeat of Game 2, where Valdez almost singlehandedly carried the Lady Eagles to victory from two sets down.
“We saw our problems,” said La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus. “I told them we should learn from our mistakes. The players followed the game plan.”
And that game plan centered around a solid blocking game and net defense, which saw the Lady Spikers checking a visibly exhausted Valdez by the closing sets.
“That’s [blocking] the strength of the team; it’s hard to find another team that has that,” said De Jesus, who steered the Lady Spikers to all of their nine titles.
For Galang and fellow graduating players Mika Reyes, Cyd Demecillo, Carol Cerveza and Mika Esperanza, there’s just no better farewell party.
“I’m just thankful to all my teammates,” said Reyes. “This won’t happen without their help. I’m just so happy now. We really gave our all.”
Finals MVP Kim Dy, who fired a team-best 17 points, also thanked the La Salle supporters who stuck it out with them despite settling as runners-up to the Lady Eagles in the previous two seasons.
“Through the ups and downs, they stayed with us,” said Dy, the team revelation this season.
After the match opened with a virtual all-Valdez show, the Lady Spikers leaned on Dy sparking a second-set turnaround where they unloaded a six-point cluster, to break away from a 10-10 deadlock.
Galang, Reyes and Demecillo soon got into the groove and the Lady Spikers evened the match by taking the second set at 25-21.
In the last two frames, the Lady Spikers had Valdez and the Lady Eagles all figured out as they pulled away with double-figure leads.
“I just believed in my team,” said this season’s Best Setter Kim Fajardo. “I also believed in what I can do.”
As confetti rained on court, Fajardo hugged a teary Valdez, who again gave all that she had in a 31-point performance.
For Valdez, there’s definitely no shame in losing after a phenomenal collegiate career that saw her win back-to-back titles and three straight MVPs.
“We couldn’t ask for more,” said Valdez. “We played our best, we gave our best.”
In the end, there’s just really one team that can come out as winner between these two powerhouse squads that largely transformed this sport that can now draw over 20,000 fans.
“I’m very proud of them,” De Jesus said of his Lady Spikers. “Nakatatak sa puso nila ang kailangan gawin (It was set in their hearts what we needed to do).
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