In sports, defending a championship is difficult, more so when you lose it and try to win it back. UAAP Season 76 was not the best season for the DLSU Lady Spikers despite sweeping the elimination round and earning a rare thrice-to-beat advantage in the finals. The dream of completing a 4-peat was taken away in the finals when the ADMU Lady Eagles snatched the crown from them, leaving them empty handed at the end of the season.
However, this season will be a breath of fresh air for the Lady Spikers. This is the season where they promise to come back stronger and more determined to bring the crown back to where it belongs. With the departure of star player and team captain Abigail Maraño, the team has several players ready to step up, with one of them being Cienne Cruz.
She may be a Lady Spiker now, but Cruz actually started out playing a different sport. Only through her older sisters did she fall in love with volleyball.
“I started to have this passion for volleyball when I was in grade 6 when my older sisters influenced me to play volleyball instead of badminton.” she shares.
Like many other student-athletes, Cruz was faced with different schools to choose from coming into college. “It’s actually a mystery for me as well, but all I can say is that I’m very blessed and grateful that I am studying here in one of the most prestigious schools,” she says when asked on how she ended up choosing DLSU.
Focusing on the present
After the heartbreaking loss last season to their archrival Ateneo, the team now faces new challenges. As each UAAP season passes by, teams improve their strategies and skills, making it much more difficult to obtain the sought after championship.
“Since we’re not the defending champions, our coach tells us that this is gonna be harder than we thought,” Cruz says. “Since our former captain Aby Maraño graduated, and most of the teams have leveled up because every team is determined to have the crown and we’re one of them.”
Being one of the best volleyball teams in the UAAP and determined to stay that way, the Lady Spikers continue to learn from their mistakes and work on their weaknesses, especially this season.
“I think what the team should improve on is how to handle pressure,” Cruz states. “To believe in ourselves and [in] each other as a team, that we can reach our goal together with the help of our beloved coaches, supporters and of course the One who gave us the ability to play with all heart, our Creator Jesus Christ.”
Coming from a family who loves to play volleyball, such as her sisters, former Lady Spiker Charleen “Cha” Cruz and teammate Camille Cruz, it is no surprise that they have also influenced her.
When asked on her inspiration she mentions, “Well first is God of course, knowing how grateful I am to have this gift in playing volleyball. It inspires me to push myself more and be the best that I can be. Next is my family and sisters who also play volleyball, they always remind me to always play for the audience of One and that is our Heavenly Father.”
Looking to the future
With the volleyball tournament just a few weeks away, the question on everyone’s mind is what to expect from the Lady Spikers. Even though the road to redemption will not be smooth, Cruz believes in her team. The new season will be a new chance to prove to everyone that Cruz and the rest of the DLSU Lady Spikers are not to be underestimated, as they will be back stronger than ever.