The DLSU Lady Spikers accomplished what Adamson and UST could not, knock Ateneo off its throne. And they did it with style and in an emphatic fashion via a 3-0 rout.
Looking fresh and playing with fluidity unseen before in this season, the Lady Spikers’ attack variety and relentless defensive pressure on star Atenean Faith Nisperos became the cornerstone of the three-sets Blue Eagles beatdown, 25-20, 25-19, 25-23 last June 16, 2022, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
With their championship pedigree in full display through their composure during big games, La Salle took early control of all sets and firmly held on. None of the sets, except for the late third set rally, were in doubt.
Even as the Blue Eagles stormed out of the dugout with aggressive attacks, the net and floor defense of the Lady Spikers were more than ready. From the vicious open attacks of Nisperos to the middle quick kills of AC Miner and the backrow whips of Vannie Gandler, the DLSU defense read each execution like a book.
As a result, La Salle burned down a 7-10 first set deficit with a 13-5 run anchored by precisely mapped out plays designed to dismantle the Ateneo floor defense. Leila Cruz, Thea Gagate, and Alleiah Malaluan pummeled the relatively weak Gandler-Miner front row defense and successfully targeted that gaping Ateneo defensive donut in the middle.
From that point, it was all La Salle. The resurging Jolina Dela Cruz made a quick kill while Malaluan and Gagate blanked blue-shirt Erika Raagas at the net to take an unreachable 23-17 lead in the first. A block by Gagate off Gandler sealed the first set at 25-20.
Unlike the first, Ateneo was able to hang on after the second tech time out at 17-15 until Malaluan channeled her MVP form while starting setter Mars Alba got creative. Malaluan repeatedly attacked the shorter Miner-Janel Maraguinot net defense while Gagate secured the middle and the Lady Spikers made a mini 3-1 run to push the greens up 20-16.
Although the Blue Eagles trimmed the lead to 21-19, the next turn would unveil the truth – the Blue Eagles melted under the bright lights.
Ateneo bungled a gimme possession giving La Salle a 22-19 lead, then a Fifi Sharma quick kill in the middle followed by a Julia Coronel service ace pushed the Lady Spikers to set point 24-20. A Sharma block on Nisperos completed the second set Eagle cooking at 25-20.
Leading 2-0, the Lady Spikers’ looked to finish the Eagles off early. Clicking on all cylinders, La Salle made a serious push to control the final set 21-14. Although Ateneo stormed back, Player of the Game Thea Gagate killed Ateneo’s hopes with a quick smash down the middle, then Alleiah Malaluan finished the Blue Eagles off with a left wing attack.
The Lady Spikers was led by Malaluan’s 16 points while Gagate and Jolina Dela Cruz both contributed 13 apiece. But it was the offensive efficiency of both Malaluan and Dela Cruz that headlined La Salle’s well-designed attacks with 41.67% and 43.4% respectively.
By trouncing Ateneo, La Salle moves on to the championship round to face the 14-0 NU Lady Bulldogs, a best-of-three series that will start on June 18, 2022, 5pm at the MOA Arena.
ANIMO LA SALLE!!! BEAT NU!