Game One was pure ANIMO.
Just take a deep dive at the stats, 70 attack points by National U against 46 for the DLSU Lady Spikers. With the discrepancy in attack points and being the more aggressive team on the net with 30 more attack attempts, how did La Salle pull it off?
And the second question is, have we played against the best version of the defending champions and still manage to win?
Let us check some numbers.
In the first round, the Lady Spikers surprised the defending champions with their new brand of play. Ending the game in three short sets, La Salle outscored NU in attacks 39-30. La Salle rising star Angel Canino outscored NU’s Bella Belen 14-12 and the rest of Belen’s pack were all in single digits.
La Salle lorded the net with a 12-4 disparity in blocks and Best Setter for Season 85, Mars Alba outplayed NU’s Camilla Lamina 20-9 in excellent sets.
It was total green domination from the first serve to the last spike.
Three days later in their second-round clash, there was the awakening of the Lady Bulldogs, who suddenly found themselves in their unfamiliar role as non-title favorites. But this time, it was the spirit of the defending champions in NU who showed up and battled the Lady Spikers to two thrilling sets both ending at 26-24 before yielding the lopsided final set.
Despite the straight-set victory, La Salle felt some Bulldogs teeth piercing their armor.
For the first time this year, NU outscored La Salle on attacks 38-47. Heading that attack was Season 84’s rookie MVP Belen with 17 points followed by the Sampaloc version of a super rookie, Vangie Alinsug with 14.
Canino was limited to 14 points while it was the senior Lady Spiker Jolina Dela Cruz helping with 12 points.
But despite the better play, La Salle had NU on a leash. Their vaunted sky-high percentage for successful attacks against attempts is only 27% in round one and 32% in the next match. Moreover, La Salle limited the lanky Alyssa Solomon to only 8 points per match.
Were the Lady Bulldogs more aggressive during Game One of the championship series?
Of the three matches, the Lady Bulldogs displayed their fiercest form during Round 2 of the eliminations averaging 48 attack attempts per set with a 32% success rate. In Game One of the title clash, the Lady Bulldogs averaged 41.6 attacks with a 33.65% hit rate.
How the Bulldogs got cooked.
Game One was a battle of early streaks, the team that gets the first scoring run wins the set. When National U opened the first set at 7-15, it became a margin too much to overhaul. The Lady Bulldogs repeated the same early blitz in the third frame and smashed the set wide open with an early 2-8 lead and ballooned this to 8-16.
In contrast, set two was tight and the fourth set was all La Salle as the Lady Spikers opened a 17-10 lead to cruise home for the game-tying set win.
The pressure of a deciding set became too much for National U. With three service errors and attacks that went awry, the defending champions showed no heart of a champion on that final set.
And at the pinnacle of the game, it was the Lady Spikers who played championship volleyball by making all the right moves and calling the right plays. The crucial 6-1 run in the final set turned a 4-5 deficit into a 10-6 lead, it was the combo of Fifi Sharma and Thea Gagate blocking the NU frontline of Vangie Alinsug and Solomon that anchored the run.
And after being blocked, both Alinsug and Solomon arched their attacks that sent the volleyball out twice.
After that, it was only a matter of possessions before Canino fired one rocket from the middle back row and the NU meltdown for the La Salle to steal Game One.
MOTHER’S DAY CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Despite a very tacky game, the spikers from Taft Avenue still prevailed.
La Salle is expected to be better. Angel Canino said that despite the win, “hindi kami ito. May igagaling pa kami sa nilaro namin”.
And Canino was not just morale-boosting nor pumping up expectations. After carrying the scoring load for her spikers in some stretches, Canino was always the first and last resort for La Salle when none of their attacks were breaking through the NU net barrier. Out of the team’s total of 178 attempts, 72 of them came from the Season 85 Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player, a staggering 40% of their plays going through Canino.
La Salle in some stretches was also out of sync. NU’s deadly tandem of Alyssa Solomon and Belen were given uncontested back row open spikes that were too fast and zooming with too much force to the La Salle floor defense to dig.
The Lady Spikers were also marred by bad receptions leading to quick NU kills highlighting the lopsided sets.
But a team with a championship pedigree like DLSU won’t stay that way. After the baptism of the UAAP championship fire, expect the Lady Spikers to settle down and play more into their system and dismantle NU in the manner they did in rounds one and two.
The defense will adjust to Solomon and Belen’s back-row smash.
The looming question for the defending champions has been health. With Sheena Toring uncertain for Game Two and Solomon seem to be hobbling in most of Game One, National U would have to dig deep into the end of the bench.
And drop in health leads to the question of depth. Without Season 84 Ivy Lacsina, NU’s middle threat index has dropped tremendously. Toring has made a great case for a replacement, but being doubtful to play on Sunday places a deep dent in NU’s title retention aspirations.
The DLSU Lady Spikers on the other court will be looking to involve Jolina Dela Cruz and Alleiah Malaluan who both scored only six points in Game One. Thea Gagate remains to be the league’s elite middle as she tallied 17 points to keep the Lady Spikers in the fight when NU threatened to rip sets apart.
And if it was the ANIMO that powered La Salle to victory in Game One, just wait for Game Two.
La Salle. National U. The Lady Spikers looking to close it out while the Lady Bulldogs fighting to live another game.
ANIMO LA SALLE!
ANIMO LADY SPIKERS!!!