Sitting at the second seed with a twice-to-beat advantage, the DLSU Lady Spikers seek to book their seventh straight trip to the UAAP finals, as they take on the resilient NU Lady Bulldogs in the stepladder semifinals on March 4, Wednesday, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Tthe familiar foes will clash once again, with La Salle playing the advantage, having beaten NU in all matches this season thus far. Per UAAP guidelines, the undefeated 14-0 run by the ADMU Lady Eagles forced this year’s stepladder semifinals format. As such, this season’s semifinals kicked off with a match-up between the third-seeded NU and the fourth-seeded FEU Lady Tamaraws.
The Lady Bulldogs were able to escape a late fightback by FEU, 25-13, 25-17, 25-27, 25-23, to set up the duel against La Salle. Semifinals’ rivals since UAAP 75 NU and La Salle have also faced each other back in the semifinals of UAAP 75, with the eventual champions Lady Spikers emerging on top.
The Lady Spikers, who were still then bannered by Aby Maraño, Michele Gumabao, and ace libero Melissa Gohing, swept NU in straight sets, 25-18, 25-23, 25-18. Season 75 marked the resurgence of the Lady Bulldogs, finally making it to the Final Four after several years of being perennial cellar dwellers in the league.
The valiant efforts of former NU star Din-Din Santiago and UAAP 75 Rookie of the Year Aikko Urdas, lifted the Lady Bulldogs towards the last spot in the semifinals for that year.
Meanwhile, for the Lady Spikers, Season 75 saw them clinch their second three-peat, only to fall short of a fourth straight crown during last year’s championship finale.
New season, same game
The Lady Spikers were able to dominate the Lady Bulldogs in both games of the elimination round. With La Salle being led by veterans Ara Galang, Mika Reyes, Kim Fajardo, and Cyd Demecillo, the Lady Spikers were particular in capitalizing on every offensive opportunity available to them.
New faces such as Eli Soyud and Mary Joy Baron have also provided a strong foundation for the Lady Spikers in both of their victories against the NU squad. Meanwhile, the Lady Bulldogs, whose offense centers on the powerful attacks and blocks of Jaja Santiago, would need to plot strategies to outplay La Salle’s defense, should they wish to remain in contention for the championship.
A silent coaching rivalry
Besides the on-court battle between the players from both teams, another spectacle to look forward to is the face-off between silent rivals, Coach Ramil de Jesus of La Salle and Coach Roger Gorayeb of NU. Gorayeb, before taking on the coaching duties for NU, was the head coach of the ADMU Lady Eagles during the championship years of La Salle.
It could well be remembered that De Jesus’ Lady Spikers denied Gorayeb’s Lady Eagles of a volleyball title in the Ateneo-La Salle finals showdown of UAAP 74 and 75.
The semifinals match between NU and the Lady Spikers will kick off at 4 pm on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. A win for DLSU on Wednesday’s match would lead them straight to the finals against the thrice-to-beat Ateneo. Meanwhile, a win for NU would extend the semifinals to a Game 2.