Jolina Dela Cruz savors ‘very fulfilling’ UAAP title run in final season with La Salle
MANILA, Philippines—Jolina Dela Cruz saved the best for last as she helped La Salle regain its lost glory after a five-year title drought.
The graduating wing spiker was fulfilled as she and team captain Mars Alba won’t go empty-handed in their collegiate careers, helping the Lady Spikers to a vengeful series sweep of the National University Lady Bulldogs in the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball Finals.
“It was very fulfilling because, since our rookie year, we haven’t experienced a championship. So we worked hard and took a chance every year,” said Dela Cruz in Filipino after their title-clinching 19-25, 23-25, 25-15, 25-17, 15-10 victory in Game 2 on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“We’re really happy because we crawled our way back from two sets down until the fifth set. Our hard-earned win made (the championship) sweeter,” she added.
Dela Cruz and Alba started their stint in La Salle with a shattered “four-peat” bid after losing to University of Santo Tomas in the Final Four of Season 81 last 2019 followed by a long hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Lady Spikers got swept by the Lady Bulldogs last year in all four matches without dropping a set. But the 23-year-old Dela Cruz bounced back this season, taking the 1st Best Outside Spiker and emerging as the runner-up to rookie MVP Angel Canino.
“It really felt good because we waited for this chance and we’re thankful to God because He gave us an opportunity to win the championship,” said the veteran spiker. “I’m so proud of my teammates because even some players will go (after this season) they can perform without their ates.”
Dela Cruz only averaged 6.0 points in two matches in the Finals but she’s grateful that everyone from their team was ready to take charge, especially Canino, who didn’t play like a rookie.
“Angel is very reliable because she’s not playing like a rookie, she acts like a senior and whenever she’s playing you don’t have to worry about her because she knows what to do,” she said.
The pair of Dela Cruz and Alba still haven’t decided what’s next for them because they want to cherish their sweet championship first. But the senior spiker is confident that the holdovers have what it takes to continue the success they started in Season 85.
“I know na maipagpapatuloy nila ito nila Thea (Gagate) sa mga susunod na taon,” she said.