Back in 2007, UAAP volleyball games were held during the first semester of the year. The UAAP board, however, decided to move the tournament to the latter half of the academic year for the thrilling games to be televised and step out of the shadow of basketball.
The move was due to the rising popularity and fan base of the exciting sport. In 2008, the Lady Spikers wasted no time to show televiewers what they were made of. After their first three-peat from 2003 to 2005, the Lady Spikers were unable to go for a fourth straight UAAP title due to the school-wide suspension in 2006. The next eligible year for the ladies from Taft was in 2007 and even then the team lost as star player Manila Santos suffered an injury, with the FEU Lady Tamaraws taking home the trophy. Seeking vengeance and aiming to snap the two-year drought, the Lady Spikers headed by team captain Santos looked to regain the team’s throne as the queens of UAAP volleyball.
The team was mentored by head coach Ramil de Jesus and was bannered by the legendary Santos, together with middle hitters Jacqueline Alarca and Michelle Datuin, open hitters Charleen Cruz and Stephanie Mercado, and rookie libero Melissa Gohing.
With a mission to bring home the championship trophy to Taft Avenue, the Lady Spikers dominated UAAP season 71 with full heads of steam. The DLSU Women’s Volleyball team’s trademark blocking defense was instrumental as the Alarca-Cruz block tandem intimidated their opponents’ hitters. The players from Taft also reacted to the ball like a magnet as they were superior in receiving the volleyball headed by fifth year captain Santos and rookie revelation Gohing. The Lady Spikers used these strategies along with superb attacking from their open and middle hitters to cruise to a 13-1 elimination record.
The team finished atop of the standings and had a twice-to-beat advantage against the Adamson Lady Falcons in the Final Four. Despite their advantage, the Green-and-White were not complacent and needed only four sets to dispose the Lady Falcons and bag a seat in the Finals against the Lady Tamaraws.
In the finals, the anticipation and tension of the crowd-filled arena was evident as they cheered and waited for both DLSU and FEU to take on the floor. The defending champions took the crucial game one of the best-of-three series with a thrilling five set win. Sensing urgency, the Lady Spikers turned it up a notch as they won the next two games in a hard fought match-up against their Morayta-based opponents.
Game three was a match that forever immortalized the living legend Santos. The Lady Spikers were up two sets to one with the score in the fourth set at 21-20 in favor of the Lady Spikers. Santos once again exhibited why she was one of the top players in the sport, scoring three straight points for the Lady Spikers to give them the lead at 24-21. With the Lady Tamaraws in disarray, its morale was single-handedly taken down by the Lady Archers’ leading lady. The Lady Tamaraws were so in shock that the match point that returned the trophy back to Taft Avenue came from an error by Cherry May Vivas, the Lady Tamaraws’ most reliable player. When the point was given to the Lady Spikers, the entire Lasallian community rejoiced.
This was a magical season for de Jesus’ squad as the graduating Santos earned the Best Receiver and the Most Valuable Player Award, Alarca who anchored DLSU’s stunning defense received the Best Blocker award and Gohing won the Rookie of the Year award and ensured DLSU of a bright future in the years to come.
The 2008 edition of the Lady Spikers’ legacy is now immortalized in UAAP and DLSU history with a banner and the championship trophy now displayed at the 9th floor of the Enrique Razon Sports Complex, along with Manilla Santos’ retired number 14 jersey. Aside from the hardware though, their legacy remains cemented in the hearts of the Lasallian community forever.