Cha Cruz could have graduated from the UAAP last year with flying colors – her third championship and the Finals MVP plum – but she did not.
UAAP Season 74 was without veterans Jacq Alarca and Steph Mercado, but Cruz gambled and suited for her last year of eligibility.
“Kaunti lang yung nabibigyan ng ganitong opportunity [to play in UAAP for five years and win championships] (Very few are given the opportunity), why not use it,” 23 year old Cruz shared.
Cruz once again led the DLSU Lady Spikers to the pinnacle of the UAAP volleyball hierarchy last February 29 at The Arena in San Juan.
The Lady Spikers mounted an astonishing straight-sets victory against the Ateneo Lady Eagles in Game 3 of the Finals series, 25-16, 25-22, 25-13 to reign in the UAAP Season 74 Women’s Division.
Playing her last game in the UAAP, consecutive Finals MVP Cruz piloted a balanced-scoring affair for the Green-and White team with 12 points including 11 attacks.
“Sabi ko nga sa kanya [Cruz] last game niya ‘to, ‘ayokong magkahiwalay tayong hindi ka champion,’ [I told Cruz that this is her last game and I do not want us to part ways without the championship,]” Head Coach Ramil de Jesus said.
For their third championship in four years and seventh over-all, the Lady Spikers banked on its championship experience to deal a one-sided match against its Katipunan-based counterpart.
Two-time Best Blocker Gumabao supported Cruz with 11 markers while league MVP Abigail Maraño and Rookie of the Year Victonara Galang added eight apiece.
Mika Reyes chipped in seven while sophomore setter Mika Esperanza registered five, three from blocks.
Despite yielding the first game of the series, the Lady Spikers maintained its championship poise to recover and fight back to victory.
“For us, wake-up call lang ‘yun (Game 1 loss) para magpush kami lalo, para mas maging solid kaming team (For us, it was just a wake-up call to push us so that we could be a solid team),” graduating Cruz stressed.
With better net defense and floor coverage than ever, the Lady Spikers shut down most of Ateneo’s attempts and answered every rally Ateneo established.
The Lady Spikers roofed 10 points, asserting mastery again over at the net against Ateneo’s three block points.
Even substitutions made by the Blue-and-White line up could not stop the pumped up Lady Spikers as they only led in the first set at the 0-1 mark.
Carrying on the momentum, the Lady Spikers closed a tight second set with vicious attacks against the disoriented Ateneo crew in the third frame to seal victory.
Katipunan’s rookie sensation Alyssa Valdez and captain Fille Cainglet were limited to 12 and seven points respectively.
When asked about the loss of their graduating superstar Cha Cruz, De Jesus expressed, “Leader, kasi team captain si Cha. So yun [team captain], pinakamahirap na hanapin sa isang team (We will lose a leader because Cha is our team captain. That is the hardest to find for a team.).”
Cruz, who was part of the 2005 rookie batch, won four championships and one bridesmaids finish in her five years in DLSU.
The gamble was worth the risk as she closed her UAAP career on top. “Kita naman sobrang successful ngayon, so hindi ako nagsisisi (I can see our success so I have no regrets),” Cruz said.
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