At the latter end of the fourth set, when the DLSU Lady Spikers were up by three points, 23-20, and ahead by two sets, La Salle team captain Ara Galang suddenly found herself down on the court, holding on to an aching left knee.
Despite seeing their captain being brought out of the court in a stretcher, the rest of the Lady Spikers didn’t let their guard down and defeated the NU Lady Bulldogs in a knockout match for the last finals spot in four sets, 26-24, 21-25, 25-18, 25-21, last March 7 at the Mall of Asia Arena. With the victory, the Taft-based squad are heading to the finals once again and will face archrivals and defending champions, ADMU Lady Eagles.
It was unfortunate though for the Lady Spikers as team captain Galang, who led her team with 25 points, ended the match in pain with an apparent knee injury.
“Hindi ko inisip na ganun yung pain na mararanasan [niya]. Umaasa nga ako na makakatayo pero hindi na nakatayo,” says DLSU head coach Ramil De Jesus after the match. Despite what happened to Galang late in the game, the veteran head coach commends her for doing a job well done in the game. “So far, maganda naman yung nilaro ni Ara. Siguro, isa yun sa [mga] A-game niya,” he adds.
Sophomore Lady Spiker Mary Joy Baron also displayed another breakthrough game as she added 15 points to the victory. Veteran Cyd Demecillo also contributed 15 points from 12 attacks,one block and, two service aces.
The Lady Spikers started the first set on a positive note as they took an early 3-0 lead. Despite the attacking efforts of Jaja Santiago and Myla Pablo, La Salle’s coverage and offense helped them to stay ahead at the first technical timeout, 8-5. The Lady Spikers pulled away with a 5-1 run behind their blocking and sharp serves to keep NU trailing by as much as four points, 17-13. However, the Lady Bulldogs scored three straight points to cut La Salle’s lead to just two, 23-21. Ivy Perez committed a service error to give the Lady Spikers set point. NU didn’t easily give up and made a 3-0 run to tie the score at 24-all. Pablo’s service error followed by a block by La Salle finally sealed the set in favor of the Taft-based squad, 26-24.
The second set was a seesaw battle between the two squads with 12 deadlocks until NU’s Jorelle Singh changed the flow of the game as her strong serves gave the Lady Spikers a hard time receiving the first ball and executing a good play. The Lady Bulldogs made an 8-1 run to take a six point lead, 23-17. A miscommunication error by La Salle put NU at set point. The Lady Spikers still tried to catch up late in the set but Pablo ‘s attack tied the match with one set apiece, 25-21.
The Lady Spikers finally found the right rhythm in the third set to make a consistent run as Galang and Carol Cerveza led their team to an early five point lead, 10-5. La Salle made an 8-1 run courtesy of their solid blocking and the attacks of Demecillo and Baron to take the biggest lead of the match, 18-8. The Lady Bulldogs managed to bounce back slowly but Demecillo was unstoppable and scored two points to give La Salle another set point, 24-16. She finally scored through an attack to keep them ahead by two sets, 25-18.
In the fourth set, both teams were in a tight battle as they made runs of their own to take the lead. However, Galang scored all five attack points for La Salle to give them a three point advantage, 20-17. The Lady Spikers benefited from NU’s errors to keep their lead at 22-19. Galang scored through the block to give La Salle its 23rd point but went down to the court afterwards. The Lady Spikers team captain was in tears holding to an aching knee. She was brought out of the court to continue the match. With Galang out of the match, Justin Tiu was tapped to substitute for her while Mika Reyes and Desiree Cheng were also asked to enter the game. Despite the unexpected incident, Cheng scored through a service ace to take match point for La Salle, 24-20. Tiu’s late entry in the match sealed the win for the Lady Spikers as she scored the last needed point to take her squad to the finals, 25-21.
The Game One of the UAAP Women’s Volleyball Finals will be on March 11, Wednesday, 3:30pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. The ADMU Lady Eagles hold a thrice-to-beat advantage and only need two games to win the championship. On the other hand, the Lady Spikers will need three victories to take back the championship.