What if Michele Gumabao didn’t forego her last playing year?

Mark Escarlote on Apr 24, 2020 06:59 AM
What if Michele Gumabao didn’t forego her last playing year?
(Photo: Arvin Lim)

The UAAP Season 76 women’s volleyball Finals is considered as this generation’s most iconic title series.

It was a battle between David and Goliath.

The then four-peat-seeking De La Salle University barreled its way straight to the Finals, destroying every team it faced in the elimination round.

Ateneo de Manila University, on the other hand, took the long route for a another shot at the crown against a team that possessed a huge thrice-to-beat advantage and the same squad that crushed the Lady Eagles in their first two Finals meetings.

Well, we all know what happened next.

Ateneo got the fairytale ending it wanted. DLSU’s dynasty crumbled and fell short in its second attempt for the elusive four-peat.

It was the start of the Lady Spikers’ two-year nightmare.

But would the result be different if the Lady Spikers had veteran Michele Gumabao that season?

DLSU actually fielded a solid line-up that year.

Two-time Most Valuable Player Aby Marano returned for her fifth and last tour of duty. Backing her up were third year players Season 75 co-MVP Ara Galang, Mika Reyes and Cyd Demecillo, sophomore setter Kim Fajardo and rookies Majoy Baron, Kim Kianna Dy, Des Cheng and libero Dawn Macandili.

As proof of their strength, the Lady Spikers won 12 of their elimination round games in straight sets and two in four sets.    

But then again, DLSU was missing a cornerstone in Gumabao.

The utility hitter, who was named Finals MVP in DLSU’s Season 75 conquest, decided to forego her last playing year to focus on her thesis and practicum.

Gumabao averaged 11.5 points per game in the previous year’s championship series and provided the intangibles that dominated the then Fab Five-backed Ateneo.

So in Season 76, La Salle was basically missing one of its best players in the Finals.

“Siguro maganda ang kalalabasan ng Season 76 kung nandoon si Michele,” said Marano, who closed her collegiate career that fateful day in March 2014 weeping and brokenhearted. “Dalawa na sana kaming senior dalawa kaming magtutulungan na dalhin ‘yung team.”

In Season 75, Gumabao averaged 8.8 points per game and normed 0.48 blocks per set in the elimination round. Gumabao, Marano, Reyes and Galang that year led DLSU’s net defense. The Taft-based squad averaged 3.21 kill blocks per set anchored by the quartet.

Gumabao’s court presence, experience and mastery of psywar could’ve helped the Lady Spikers intimidate the Lady Eagles, who for two seasons were on the losing end of the rivalry.     

“Alam naman din natin gaano ka talented si Michele. Sabayan mo pa ng leadership and swag, dyusko, sigurado ako maganda ang tandem namin dalawa,” said Marano. “Mas magiging mainit ang laban.”

But then again, the Alyssa Valdez, Michelle Morente, Jia Morado, Ella De Jesus and Denden Lazaro bannered Lady Eagles that year were already playing on a whole new level under the system of new coach Tai Bundit, who replaced Roger Gorayeb.

“Pero di ko masasabi kung sure na mapapasa-amin ‘yung championship kung nand’un sya,” said Marano.

“Hindi natin madidikta ang mangyayari pero sigurado ako na mas malaki ang chance namin kung nandun sana siya,” Marano thought.



Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles

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