UAAP VOLLEYBALL: Final test for DLSU’s Big 3
Mark Escarlote on May 01, 2018 07:33 PM
Dawn Macandili, Kim Kianna Dy and Majoy Baron followed the footsteps of their predecessors, bringing glory and honor for the De La Salle University Lady Spikers.
It was Game 4 of the UAAP Season 76 Women's Volleyball Finals.
A monstrous 21,314-strong crowd filled the Mall of Asia Arena, rocking the three-year-old state-of-the art venue in Pasay City.
A do-or-die match for the four-peat-seeking De La Salle University, which a few weeks ago was the favorite to go all the way, make a flawless title run in the women’s volleyball tournament following a 14-0 sweep of the elimination round.
They only needed two wins. The Lady Spikers held a thrice-to-beat advantage.
They could’ve had won it all the game before.
But a young and hungrier Ateneo de Manila University led by a third-year hitter in Alyssa Valdez and piloted by a newly-appointed Thai coach spoiled their run late in the fifth set.
Then it all came to one final battle for the crown.
Graduating Aby Marano, a feisty and vocal leader, tried to rally her teammates. DLSU was down two sets to none.
Rookie Kim Kianna Dy was deployed for the first time in the series as a substitute.
With her was another rookie, libero Dawn Macandili, her high school teammate at De La Salle Zobel. On the bench, freshman middle Majoy Baron, a recruit from Baguio City National High School, looked at her teammates as the Lady Eagles reached their 25th point.
Tears fell almost simultaneously as the final whistle blew.
DLSU lost their three-year throne.
It was second stringer Baron, reserve libero Macandili and benchwarmer Dy’s first taste of the championship round.
It was bitter. It was painful.
They vowed for revenge the following season.
But the aftertaste of that defeat lingered up until Season 77.
CHANGE OF FORTUNE
The trio under the guidance of head coach Ramil De Jesus were molded into legit stars in just three years.
They finally earned the trust of the mentor, the architect of DLSU’s success the past two decades.
Before Season 78, the Lady Spikers joined the Philippine Superliga under the Meralco banner during the off-season. There they became the whipping girls of the tournament, finishing fifth in the six-team field.
But it was De Jesus’ way to strengthen the Lady Spikers’ minds and develop their skills.
In order to build a strong team, he had to make them feel defeat.
The trio of Macandili, Baron and Dy benefited from all of these.
They had the weapons this time around against Ateneo in the bitter rivals’ fourth straight championship installment.
Macandili’s floor defense was superb, Baron was a solid net defender alongside a graduating Mika Reyes. And Dy, the opposite who only saw action on borrowed playing time in Season 76, made her presence felt in the most important three games of the season.
Dy brought down on its knees the mighty Ateneo with an average of 17 points per game in the Finals that went the full distance and earned the Finals Most Valuable Player award.
Macandili won the Best Receiver and Best Digger honors while Baron was named Best Blocker.
They gave the ‘Big Three of Reyes’, Ara Galang and Cyd Demecillo a fitting farewell gift.
As they bid adieu to the trio, it was the time for Macandili, Baron and Dy to fit in to the shoes of DLSU’s new ‘Big Three’.
Season 79 became the litmus test for the three.
DLSU lost most of its veterans save for graduating setter Kim Fajardo while hitter Desiree Cheng just came back from an ACL tear injury.
The trio needed to step up.
Most of the pressure was on Macandili’s shoulder.
Before the start of the season, the five-foot Tanuan, Batangas defense specialist was named PSL All-Filipino Conference MVP as the DLSU-backed F2 Logistics ruled the tournament on June 2016.
However, the Lady Spikers encountered a bumpy road in the UAAP, losing three games in the elims. Two against Ateneo.
But it didn’t deter the three volleybelles from doing their part to carry the team back into the Finals against the Lady Eagles.
It was the trio’s shining moment.
Bringing in the experience, confidence and the signature swag, the Lady Spikers steamrolled past the Ateneo in two games to cap a successful season that saw Baron win the coveted Season MVP plum for her undeniable efficiency the whole tournament long.
Baron was the first DLSU player to win the highest individual honor since Marano and Galang shared the award in Season 75.
“Iba ’yung pressure na kailangan mong buhatin ang team kasi last playing year mo na.”
This was how Macandili described Season 80.
Now playing on her last year, Macandili, like the rest of the ‘Big Three’ wanted to leave a winning legacy.
“Siyempre gusto mong maging maganda ang exit mo and para sa team din na ma-achieve ang goal naming,” added Macandili, who a few months back was awarded as Asia’s Second Best libero during the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship. “Nandoon din ang takot na last playing year mo na and hindi mo na mababalikan ‘to. Ayoko namang mag-exit na may regrets.”
The Lady Spikers advanced to the Finals for the tenth straight year and are on the brink of handing De Jesus his third career grand slam and DLSU’s 11th overall crown after taking down Far Eastern University in straight sets in Game 1.
“Siguro this is our chance to bring back the three-peat and siyempre lahat ng sacrifices namin, lahat ng pinaghirapan namin, ito na 'yung final test namin,” said Dy.
One last push to return the trust and confidence given by de Jesus.
“We want to show coach na sa five years naman dito, these are the players that you produced. We want to honor him,” added Dy.
Baron, for her part, wanted to fulfill a promise she made before the start of the season.
To keep DLSU’s winning tradition.
“Ayaw kong masira 'yung record ni coach. Kaya as much as possible, parang sobrang nabilib din ako sa sistema niya at mga seniors ko before, parang ayaw ko na puputulin ko 'yung history na ginagawa nila sa time ko ngayon,” she said. “Personally, 'yun ang motivation ko.”
On Wednesday, Macandili, Baron and Dy could be playing their last games as Lady Spikers.
The Big Three could be making their final bow. A last chance to join their teammates in forming a circle, kneeling and posing with an arm stretched while the other bent imitating an archer ready to release a flaming final arrow.
Three more DLSU players will be leaving the lair of the Lady Spikers.
A trio that gave everything they got for five fruitful and colorful years.
People, for sure, will be talking about their stints for the green and white for years.
The stories of their ups and downs.
The glory that they made together.
But for Baron, Macandili and Dy, it was the honor of playing for La Salle under the great Ramil De Jesus that will be their most cherished college memories.
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