In a scorching battle on June 21, 2022, the UAAP Women’s Volleyball Championship bore witness to a showdown of titanic proportions. The revered La Salle Lady Spikers clashed fiercely against the relentless NU Lady Bulldogs, as both teams vied for supremacy in the sport’s grandest stage.
The stakes were high, with the Lady Spikers, decorated with an astounding 11 championship titles, on the brink of a potential catastrophe. In contrast, the jubilant NU Lady Bulldogs, adorned in their dark blue and yellow jerseys, reveled in the end of their championship drought. However, amidst the Bulldogs’ celebrations, the Lady Spikers exuded an enigmatic aura, silently conveying a message of future retribution: “We will be coming for you soon.”
As the summer leagues unfolded, Angel Canino embarked on her journey as a Lady Spiker, and La Salle found themselves in a phase of introspection. Crawling their way into the finals of the Shakeys Super League, the Taft-based squad gradually gained momentum, signaling the birth of a new era. Despite falling short in the finals, it became evident that this La Salle team would rise like a phoenix in the upcoming UAAP season, fueled by renewed determination and an unquenchable thirst for success.
“May laban na,” quipped an NCAA volleyball coach, encapsulating the brewing storm.
National U started the academic year without their terrorizing middle blocker, Ivy Lacsina, who opted to pursue a professional career. Although Lacsina may not possess the same scoring prowess as Bella Belen, her middle presence left opponents in a quandary. Double-team Belen and Alyssa Solomon, and risk being ravaged by Lacsina’s precision attacks from the middle. The Lady Bulldogs boasted a three-headed monster that devoured opponents with single coverage and punished any defensive rotations executed with a moment’s delay.
However, NU’s journey to the finals in 2023 was marred by challenges. They found themselves embroiled in an ugly five-set tussle against the hard-hitting Adamson squad and suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of the UST Lady Tigresses, who valiantly battled through adversity, propelled by the remarkable displays of one-legged Tigress Melina Alessandrini. In contrast, La Salle displayed their dominance by clinically dismantling the defending champions in straight sets, leaving spectators in awe of their improving prowess.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the court, the Lady Spikers surged forward, propelled by a wave of triumphs. The rising star Angel Canino, the inspired plays of Jolina Dela Cruz, and the mesmerizing playmaking wizardry of Marionne Alba elevated La Salle’s game to new heights. The lethal combination of Thea Gagate and Fifi Sharma wreaked havoc in the middle, dismantling opposing defenses with their unstoppable rotations. Yet, it was not merely their individual talents that set them apart; it was the undeniable cohesion and unbreakable bond that permeated the team. Their seamless chemistry on the court was a testament to their shared camaraderie and unwavering focus on their common objective.
In an unfortunate twist of fate, Leila Cruz succumbed to injury, leaving La Salle in search of a suitable replacement. Enter Shevana Laput, an athletic phenom blessed with an extraordinary vertical leap, capable of defying gravity. With a reloaded defensive line and the triumphant return of Alleiah Malaluan, who reclaimed her position as an MVP candidate, the Lady Spikers possessed the depth necessary to weather any storm that came their way.
In a pulsating showdown during the highly anticipated Final Four, the La Salle Lady Spikers showcased their unwavering determination and resilience against a formidable opponent, the UST Tigresses. Every moment of the match was fiercely contested, with both teams leaving no room for complacency. It was a clash of titans, a battle that would be etched in the memories of volleyball aficionados for years to come.
In the midst of this intense battle, it was the indomitable Alleiah Malaluan who emerged as the game-changer for La Salle. The fifth-leading scorer of Season 84 summoned her inner strength and unleashed her backup powers when they were most needed. With sheer grit and unwavering focus, Malaluan propelled her team to claim hard-fought early sets, turning the tide in favor of the Lady Spikers.
But Malaluan’s impact extended far beyond her individual brilliance. Her presence on the court injected a renewed sense of depth and versatility into the La Salle lineup, making them an even more formidable force to be reckoned with. The reinsertion of Malaluan instilled fear in their opponents and provided a psychological advantage to her teammates.
With the return of Malaluan, the Lady Spikers now possessed a wealth of options at their disposal. The likes of Angel Canino, Jolina dela Cruz, Shevana Laput, Thea Gagate, Fifi Sharma, and Marionne Alba formed a formidable arsenal of talent. However, it was the undeniable X-factor that Malaluan brought to the table that set them apart. Her presence on the court enabled La Salle to adapt seamlessly to any game situation and counter the challenges thrown their way.
As the championship race reached its climax, it became increasingly clear that La Salle had ascended to a new level of invincibility with the resurgence of Alleiah Malaluan. Opponents could only gaze in awe and trepidation as the Lady Spikers showcased their unrivaled prowess. The coveted title was within their grasp, and their adversaries could do nothing but ponder on how to neutralize the impact of a team that had become an insurmountable force in the UAAP Season 85 Women’s Volleyball Championship.
THE ADVERSARY – NU LADY BULLDOGS
In 2022, the eventual champions looked sharp right from the start. Their spikes were sharper, their sets more accurate, and their attacks stronger than ever. They bulldozed through the competition, leaving the fumbling field of volleybelles, who had just a month of preparation, in their wake.
However, this year, the Lady Bulldogs seem to have lost some of their bite. In 2022, the top three spikers in the league were Alyssa Solomon, Bella Belen, and Princess Robles. While Solomon retained her position at the top this year, Belen dropped to fourth, and Robles didn’t even make it into the top 10. Even Belen’s super serving powers, which ranked at the top in Season 84, met their Kryptonite this season. She no longer ranks among the top 10 in service aces.
Furthermore, Jennifer Nierva, who was ranked second in digs last year, slipped down to fifth place. Perhaps it was the departure of Lacsina or the fact that other teams had more time to prepare for this season, but the Lady Bulldogs’ fangs didn’t appear as sharp as during their championship-winning campaign in 2022.
THE CLASH FOR THE TITLE
With a clear path and a proven record of dominance, the DLSU Lady Spikers are poised for payback. They face a relatively weak roster and a waning talent pool, providing them with a golden opportunity to make a resounding statement. The Taft-based squad, renowned for their high-flying exploits and skillful ball swatting, is determined to seize this title run and potentially secure Coach Ramil De Jesus’ 12th championship.
The stage is set for a clash of contrasting narratives. On one side, the La Salle Lady Spikers, fueled by their unwavering determination and fortified by the return of Alleiah Malaluan, are ready to unleash their full might. They have undergone a transformation, evolving into a well-rounded unit capable of adapting to any situation. Led by their dynamic core of Canino, Dela Cruz, Laput, Gagate, Sharma, Justin Jazareno and Alba, they are a force to be reckoned with, eager to reclaim their position at the top of the UAAP women’s volleyball landscape.
On the other side, the NU Lady Bulldogs find themselves facing an uphill battle. While still possessing a talented roster, they have struggled to replicate the dominant form that led them to the championship in the previous season. The absence of Ivy Lacsina, coupled with the dip in performance from key players like Bella Belen and Princess Robles, has left them searching for answers. However, the spirit of championship experience runs deep within their veins, and they will not go down without a fight.
The clash for the title promises to be a spectacle of skill, strategy, and sheer determination. La Salle’s explosive offense, marked by powerful spikes and impeccable playmaking, will test the defensive prowess of the Lady Bulldogs. NU, known for its resilience and tactical approach, will look to counter with a strategic game plan, exploiting any weaknesses in the Lady Spikers’ defense.
It is a battle that transcends individual performances. It is about the collective will of the teams, the ability to overcome adversity, and the pursuit of volleyball excellence. The echoes of past championships reverberate within the minds of the Lady Spikers, fueling their desire to reclaim their throne. Meanwhile, the Lady Bulldogs aim to prove that their previous triumph was not a fluke, battling to retain their status as champions.
The clash of these two formidable teams will captivate volleyball enthusiasts and ignite the passion of supporters from both sides. It is a testament to the enduring spirit of competition and the unwavering pursuit of glory. As the final whistle blows and the championship crown finds its rightful owner, the victors will etch their names in the annals of UAAP women’s volleyball history, leaving an indelible mark on the sport and inspiring future generations to dream, fight, and soar to new heights.
ANIMO LA SALLE!
ANIMO LADY SPIKERS!