La Salle gets back at UAAP Finals tormentor NU with rare beating
La Salle easily hurdled a big obstacle and made defending champion National University (NU) look really bad.
But the Lady Spikers are inclined to quickly snuff out the euphoria of a clinical 25-10, 25-15, 25-21 victory on Wednesday at a jampacked Mall of Asia Arena that completed a first-round sweep of their UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball tournament assignment.
“I constantly reminded them that this game is over and our next match will be completely different, so we should not stay on Cloud 9 for long,’’ said interim La Salle coach Noel Orcullo when asked of the win.
The first round sweep also erased the stigma of unpleasant memories suffered at the hands of the Lady Bulldogs last season, where La Salle was swept in the best-of-three title series without winning a set.
And a big reason for that is rookie Angel Canino, who finished with 14 points, highlighted by 11 attacks, with veterans Thea Gagate, Fifi Sharma and Jolina dela Cruz gaining their shares of the limelight in the statement win.
‘Proud of us’
Team skipper Mars Alba spread out the offense with 20 excellent sets, Ylizyeth Jazareno had 15 digs on the defensive end while Gagate and Leila Cruz registered three blocks apiece for the Lady Spikers, who won for the first time after five matches against NU since Season 81.
“I’m really proud of us. But we still have to focus on our singular goal, which is to get the championship this season, so let’s not sensationalize wins like these,’’ said Sharma. “There are many other games that we have to go through in order to get to what we need to achieve.”
NU absorbed its second defeat in winding up the first round, a defeat that the Lady Bulldogs didn’t come close to experiencing since 2020 as they will open second round hostilities tied for second spot with the Adamson Lady Falcons and University of Santo Tomas Tigresses at 5-2.
WATCH: Bella Belen after losing to La Salle: Siguro po sa aming mga players is yung hunger namin sa paglalaro parang medyo nawala po e. #UAAPSeason85 | via Lance Agcaoili/Inquirer Sports
Posted by Inquirer Sports on Wednesday, March 22, 2023
And the Lady Bulldogs need to turnaround quick, as they square off with the Lady Spikers again on Saturday to open the final half of their elimination round schedule.
“We’re shaky. It’s really painful. We have to prepare better if we want a better outcome. We have to bring back the hunger,’’ said NU’s Michaela Belen, last season’s rookie-Most Valuable Player who led her school to an unbeaten campaign.
The Lady Spikers buckled down to work right after the first serve, seizing the first set in dominant fashion through the offensive brilliance of Canino and Cruz.
After scoring eight straight points, La Salle hardly met any resistance and found itself way ahead, 20-10, before the Cruz-Canino combo dealt the blows.
A Cruz spike off the block and Canino’s drop gave the Lady Spikers a rare set victory against the defending champions. They failed to snatch a set from NU the entire season last year.
“Our first round was really shaky. La Salle deserved the win. You can see that they were very prepared and they were eager to win. We will take this as a motivation and make adjustments come Saturday,’’ said NU coach Karl Dimaculangan.
The storyline didn’t go NU’s way in the succeeding frames with Sharma delivering the needed points in the second set, including an ace for a 12-5 La Salle lead.
Belen and Princess Robles pulled the Lady Bulldogs within six, only for errors to take them down.
Dela Cruz put the lid on the second set by deflecting Robles’ power shot at the net.
“After winning a big game, we keep on telling our players that the joy should immediately subside the following day. We’ll be prepared on Saturday,’’ said Orcullo.