DLSU Lady Spikers: Taft Times
Anton Roxas on Jan 27, 2016 11:16 AM
Mataas at malaki ‘yung expectations sa amin. Pero ‘yun naman talaga 'yung goal ng each team. To get the championship -- Cyd Demecillo
No. of titles: 8
Last title won: Season 75
Season 77 record: 12-2 (2nd)
Head coach: Ramil De Jesus
About two years ago, De La Salle University was on a mission to become the first team (Since the Final Four format was instituted in 1993.) to win four straight championships in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball tournament.
However, history eluded the Lady Spikers. And as they enter the 78th season of the league, they are faced with the unusual challenge of trying to reclaim lost glory.
With eight championships in the past 16 seasons, the DLSU Lady Spikers have established a reputation as a powerhouse in Women’s Volleyball. But, a new dynasty has risen with arch-rival Ateneo de Manila University being hailed as champions for two straight years. Other teams like National University and the University of the Philippines are also vastly improving and for the first time in a long time, DLSU no longer has that aura of invincibility.
Former MVP Ara Galang is set to make her return to the court after tearing the ACL and MCL on her left knee last March 7, 2015 in the Final Four against NU. She was inactive for almost six months following surgery and only started practicing with the team last October.
“(My knee) is 95% na,” said Galang, who will be playing in her final UAAP season.
Before the injury, Galang was leading DLSU in scoring, averaging 17.3 points per match.
The Angeles, Pampanga native is not putting pressure on herself to return to her old form right away. This year, she just wants to have fun.
“Makikita nila ‘yung love ko sa sport na ‘to. Makikita nila ‘yung pagiging motivated ko at ‘yung eagerness to enjoy the game.”
Aside from Galang, there are four other graduating players in the DLSU lineup.
Cyd Demecillo, who was second on the team in scoring last year (10.1 points per match.) is among the Lady Spikers who will be playing in their final tournament. Last October, Demecillo and Kim Fajardo made history by winning DLSU its first ever the UAAP Beach Volleyball championship.
In a way, Demecillo feels that their victory in the sand court has helped the team keep its goals high despite their recent struggles and injuries to key players.
“Galing sa buhangin sa indoor, mataas at malaki ‘yung expectations sa amin. Pero ‘yun naman talaga 'yung goal ng each team. To get the championship,” said the former varsity team swimmer from Cebu.
Former UAAP Rookie of the Year Mike Esperanza is back to play out her final year after sitting out last season due to injuries to both her knees. Esperanza will resume her role as the back-up setter to Fajardo as well as being the vocal leader to the younger players like Kim Dy, Dawn Macandili, and Eli Soyud.
Fourth year middle blocker Mary Joy Baron and graduating opposite hitter Carol Cerveza are projected starters for the Ramil de Jesus-mentored squad.
But, much of the attention on the DLSU side this season will be focused on 5th year middle blocker, Mika Reyes. Reyes has been working hard during the off-season to elevate her game.
“Nu’ng naglalaro ako sa PSL (Philippine SuperLiga), sabi ko, ‘What level na ba ako?’ Kaya pinilit ko abutin yung level na linalaro nila (Dindin) Santiago at mga imports,” said Reyes.
In the past, DLSU always had middle hitters like Jacq Alarca and Aby Marano who were fearsome blockers and could execute running spikes that were difficult to stop. Reyes is ready to show that she has evolved into a player of that mold.
By the time UAAP Season 78 is over, four starters will have graduated, leaving the future of the DLSU Lady Spikers in doubt. That is why for the most part, the team just wants to enjoy their time together.
The hype may not be as strong this year but history says that you can never underestimate a team with a winning culture. Especially if that team comes from Taft Avenue.
Upside: Ara Galang’s retun. With DLSU’s main scoring option back at the helm together with four other graduating veterans, expect the Lady Spikers to be more aggressive this year to reclaim their lost glory.
Downside: Pressure. Expectations are high for these girls this season. And after two consecutive heartbreaks, can the Lady Spikers finally get their redemption?