UAAP Season 81 Final Four: DLSU will be back stronger next year

Mark Escarlote on May 06, 2019 01:57 PM
DLSU will be back stronger next year
Expect De La Salle University to be back stronger in Season 82.

Dethroned De La Salle University will use the next few days to recover, rest and lick its battle wounds.

For the Lady Spikers, their early exit in UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball gave them a good look at their missteps, mistakes and weaknesses that need to be addressed.

What they learned this season will be their motivation and drive to get back on top next year.

DLSU will see the light of Season 82 with new weapons in its arsenal.  

For the first time in head coach Ramil de Jesus’ 21-year watch, excluding his first year in Season 60, the Season 69 suspension of DLSU and the forfeiture-marred Season 70, that DLSU missed the championship round after bowing down to University of Sto. Tomas in the Final Four on Sunday.

The loss was the final nail on the coffin for the Lady Spikers’ bid for a four-peat in a season that saw them struggle with a rebuilding team after the loss of their veteran core, injuries and inconsistencies.  

A problem De Jesus has foreseen even a few seasons back.

“Itong Season 81 nasabi ko na to noon pa sa team owners, sa managers, sa admin ng La Salle na pagdating ng Season 81 hirap tayo dahil sa K-12. Dahil hindi namin napaghandaan yun,” said De Jesus, the architect of DLSU’s 11 titles including three grand slams.

The Lady Spikers saw the departure three key players in Kim Kianna Dy, solid middle Majoy Baron and top libero Dawn Macandili – all Most Valuable Player winners during their collegiate days in the UAAP and in commercial club league – after Season 80. Three more veterans left the team in Justine Tiu, Gyra Barroga and Arianne Layug to pursue club careers.     

But despite these setbacks, the Lady Spikers managed to climb into the Final Four led by graduating Des Cheng, who struggled with bad games and minor injuries throughout her swan song, and promising rookie Jolina Dela Cruz albeit in an unfamiliar situation of playing with a twice-to-win handicap.

DLSU came into the semis with back-to-back losses at the hands of Far Eastern University at the end of the elims and to the Tigresses in the playoff for a twice-to-beat advantage. The Lady Spikers showed the heart of a champion in the thrilling Final Four showdown, coming back from two sets down before falling short in the end.  

For De Jesus, what he saw in his wards in that semis loss gave him hope that DLSU’s fighting spirit will remain with his holdovers and hopefully inspire the incoming reinforcements.  

“Ngayon okay naman natututunan naman namin so hopefully makita nila yung reason para hindi sila panghinaan ng loob. Makita nila na kailangan pa nila mag-extra effort para mas mai-angat pa at mai-ahon ‘yung team sa susunod pa na UAAP season,” he said.

Having pinpointed their lapses, the Lady Spikers’ coaching staff and management are now preparing for their volleyball program next year thru recruitment and development of high school players.    

“Ngayon na-realize namin na ganun nga kaya nag-start na kami gumawa ng program para sa mga senior high,” said De Jesus.

Bannering the blue-chip recruits of the Lady Spikers are Thea Gagate and players coming from reigning UAAP high school girls volleyball champion DLSU-Zobel.

The Lady Spikers may not be a part of the glitter of this season’s Finals but rest assured that DLSU will be in the spotlight next year – just like it did in the past two decades.



Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles

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