The Lady Spikers saw their 9-game winning streak come to a halt against the embattled UST Golden Tigresses last April 2 in four sets, 19-25, 25-14, 18-25, 12-25. UST was coming of a 3-set sweep against fellow contender Adamson, and had something to prove, and prove it they did.
The green-and-white team dropped the first set as they struggled to develop any sort of rhythm. However, they seemed to come alive, and thoroughly dominated UST in the second, limiting the Espana ladies to just 14 points. Unfazed, UST bounced back to take the 3rd, and the seemingly demoralized Lady Spikers dropped the next set at 12.
UST came out firing from the first serve, and leaned on their game plan of targeting leading Lady Spiker scorer Angel Canino wherever she was, at the net or in the back row. The plan worked, as Canino was visibly bothered and fatigued by the concentration of attacks directed at her. She nonetheless topscored with 13 points, close to her average, but her struggles also affected her teammates who played below par.
The Taft Tower wall was not as effective as in previous games, netting only 6 points and allowing the powerful spikes from Laure and Alessandrini to get through. Laure scored a tournament-high 29 points, all on attacks. The blocking took a hit with the absence of Leila Cruz, out for the season with an ACL injury.
The Lady Spikers’ offense performed below par: our middle blockers were limited to just 18 points (Gagate-9, Sharma-8, and Provido-1). Jolina dela Cruz was limited to just 8 points as well. The lack of firepower, at least for this game, was affected by the scoring gap from last season’s top scorer Alleliah Malaluan, who is still recovering from an injury suffered last season. All told, the DLSU offense was not as potent as in earlier games, scoring only 40 points on spikes and 6 blocks to go with 5 aces.
The game will surely be analyzed by the other teams, who will try to capitalize on the missteps of the Lady Spikers, maybe as a template on how to beat the tournament leaders.
For sure our coaches will be devising ways to mend the gaps in the Taft Wall created by the absence of the 6’1 opposite spiker Cruz. Her replacement, Jyne Soreno, is a bit shorter, and still working herself into top form after spending much of the season as a substitute. Our libero, Jazareno, also had a slightly below-par game, perhaps affected by the loss of a contact lens during the game. The green-and-white combined defense, both net and floor, allowed 63 UST attacks to get through. Coupled with our not-so-good reception, the La Salle offense never really took off in the last 2 sets, preventing a fight-back from the Lady Spikers.
So does it now look bleak?
Far from it.
A single loss will not define the season, nor will it herald a downtrend in performance from our team. The Lady Spikers WILL bounce back, driven by the determination of our seniors Alba and dela Cruz to finish their final season on a high note. The coaches and players will have absorbed the lessons from that game, and are sure to have addressed the weaker points.
Make no mistake, this team was built to contend for the title. A stumble here and there will not be the norm, but rather will serve as an impetus and inspiration for the team to do better and prove any doubters wrong.
The Lady Spikers will have had a 2-week break to rest, train, and retool the areas that need improvement. The game plans will start to be more focused on the opponent, and we’ll see better performances from the individual players. The cohesive teamwork that worked so well in the first 9 games will resurface, as the girls regain the focus that they seemed to have lost in the last game.
Our next game is on Sunday, April 16 against UP. In the past, the team that the Lady Spikers play after a loss has borne the brunt of the frustration the team felt in losing. Let’s see if this spirit comes to fore this weekend. It most likely will surface.
Photo courtesy of the UAAP Media Bureau.