DOC VOLLEYBALL: Hunter Hunted
AJ Pareja on Mar 05, 2019 05:25 PM
The UP Lady Maroons played with incredible mental fortitude against the defending champions.
In what could be considered as the most exciting and intense match to date for UAAP Women’s Volleyball Season 81, the UP Lady Maroons made their claim to the throne louder as they forced the reigning queens, the DLSU Lady Spikers, to bend on their knees in their first battle.
As expected of the defending champions, they started strong and aggressive coming off a sub-par game by head coach Ramil De Jesus’ standards. The Lady Spikers didn’t skip a beat in exerting dominance over the Lady Maroons early on but the first set would be the last of that unanswered tenacity.
Embodying the typical “Pinoy Bida”, the UP Lady Maroons rolled with the initial punches and endured the flurry of arrows. With some key adjustments from the second set onwards, the Lady Maroons found the pressure points in the La Salle barricade and hit back hard with their own salvo. Though the Lady Spikers were able to take some of the maroon bombardment, the assault was too much for the reigning champs to mount a counter offensive of their own towards the end.
The Lady Spikers opened the match strong with their usual aggressiveness from the service line to force the Lady Maroons to rely mainly on the wings for the offensive. With Justine Dorog not starting due to a previous knee strain, Marian Buitre took the second open spot for UP. Though known to be one of the most physical spikers on the team, Buitre proved not as influential both in the scoring output and the passing department, which are the two key responsibilities of a second left wing hitter.
While Tots Carlos was off to a great start in chipping strong hits one after the other from the right, Isa Molde from the left wing struggled early on as it took several attempts for her and setter Ayel Estranero to connect for a fast shoot play. With Dorog on the bench and the passing formation for UP altered, the Lady Spikers were able to exploit the opportunity by dropping aces one after the other particularly in the rotation where libero Remelyn Altomea was left alone to guard 60 to 70 percent of the back court in zones 5 to 6 with Carlos forced to pass from the seams of zones 1 and 6 to compensate for Dorog’s absence.
Despite the relative lack of output from the DLSU wings, their service once again proved more than enough for a set 1 win.
The second and third sets were a whole lot different for the Lady Maroons. With Dorog back in the fray, UP’s passing formation was reestablished to ensure that no confusion sprung out from each passer’s area of coverage. The adjustment enabled the Lady Maroons to limit the ace opportunities of the Lady Spikers as evidenced by having only 4 out of 11 service aces distributed from Set 2 to 5. The readjusted formation also enabled Estranero to engage the middles more as they outnumbered the attempts of their middle counterparts 42 to 38 respectively throughout the match.
Perhaps the most significant damage done by UP against DLSU was clearly the net offense that proved too aggressive even for the famed “Taft Wall”. With numbers alone, La Salle clearly won the blocking department with 10 won points compared to UP’s 4.
However, a further analysis of the correlation of the block with regards to the spikers involved would reveal a different story. Nine out of the 10 successful blocks by La Salle were by the middles and the opposite. With Tots Carlos adept at hitting a strong line attack with a well placed set, her down the line attacks came at the most crucial of moments when the La Salle openers failed to close in on the gap between the antenna. In the same fashion, 3 out of 4 won block points by UP were all from Molde on the left.
While Jolina Dela Cruz was relatively more consistent than her left wing counterparts in Des Cheng and May Luna throughout the match, her output was clearly limited by Molde’s block.
In addition, with a poor start from Luna and relatively low output from Cheng, UP’s lack of defensive stop from the right wing proved not much of a concern for their cause.
A SHORT-LIVED RESURGENCE
The 4th set saw a resurgence from La Salle as the ailing Luna provided the sorely missed firepower from the left wing. Her valiant effort undeniably helped the squad push the match further into a decider, but the Lady Maroons were quick to take a breather and go back on the offensive.
Molde’s and Carlos’ combined efforts throughout the match proved unbearable for La Salle’s blockers as both spikers kept on attacking the gaps either between blockers or between the antenna.
Though proving to be a formidable replacement to Dawn Macandili in the libero position, CJ Saga found some struggles on defense positioning as the blockers were kept scrambling to cover the gaps. La Salle has been known to draw strength from their well-placed system on court but UP’s angle variations forced the reigning champs out of system in crucial breaks of the game. With left hitters ailing with some injuries, but still with a respectable passing percentage, setter Michelle Cobb could have engaged her middles more to increase their offensive output.
While not directly attributable to the numbers produced, it was also notable that the Lady Maroons played with incredible mental fortitude throughout the match while the defending champs played riddled with physical and emotional tension. The Lady Maroons played as if they’re the defending champs to make the league a whole lot more exciting from here on.