“Mas gusto nila.” (They wanted it more.)
Throughout the DLSU Lady Spikers’ championship run, DLSU head coach Ramil De Jesus often resorted to this statement whenever asked about claiming victory over their opponents, referring to his players. He has instilled a sense of stubbornness and perseverance amongst the team, that every time they fall down, they always find a way back up.
A prime example of this was after a heavy loss against the ADMU Lady Eagles to conclude the first round, La Salle regained momentum and recorded six consecutive victories. The Lasallians managed to only drop one set in the entirety of its run before ultimately falling to ADMU in their second encounter.
Last night, it was a fairy tale finish for the Green-and-White; La Salle claimed back-to-back championships, De Jesus won his tenth title, and Kim Fajardo capped off her collegiate career in style. All of this was achieved after losing four key players and with the dominant offense of archrivals ADMU in their way.
But the story of the Game 2 came down to Tin Tiamzon wielding La Salle to victory and Desiree Cheng being named Finals MVP (Most Valuable Player).
It may come as surprise to some, considering how the two players began the season. Cheng struggled offensively for the early stretch of Season 79, managing to only score 31 points in the first round. Mistakes in offensive sets haunted her as she constantly fought with inconsistency.
The same can be said about Tiamzon, who struggled to maintain a constant pace. The sophomore opened the season with two points against FEU, then recorded 14 versus the UST Golden Tigresses in the following game. The trend would go on–she would score double digits in a game then score only two or five points in the next.
Both players represented the team earlier in the season when they teamed up with captain Kim Fajardo in the UAAP Beach Volleyball Tournament. However, they were unable to defend La Salle’s beach volleyball title, falling to third place.
Come the indoor volleyball season, they faced a lot of scrutiny, but they did not allow it to get into their heads.
Cheng said, “The coaches told me lang na kailangan maniwala ka sa sarili mo, kailangan may kumpiyansa ka, ganun. From there, sinabi ko kaya ko naman, anong nag hohold-back sa akin?”
(The coaches just told me to believe in myself, have confidence in myself. From there, I told myself I could do it, so what’s holding me back?)
Cheng, almost instantly, turned the situation around. In the second round, the third-year player recorded 72 points and finished five of their seven games in double digits.
And when it mattered the most, Tiamzon solidified herself in the Lasallian offense, contributing 14.7 points per game through the Final Four and the finals. “A lot of focus and a lot of perseverance, even throughout the criticism, and just to believe in myself and in my team, and to know that everyone who supports this team has my back,” the sophomore said.
In Game 2 of the finals, the Filipino-Canadian scored 16 points on 13 attacks and three service aces, and added six excellent receptions. Cheng, who was later named Finals MVP, recorded 12 points, 12 excellent digs, and 13 excellent receptions.
Regarding her MVP performance, Cheng commented that it was to give team captain Fajardo a memorable send-off. “Sabi ko kakayanin namin, di pwede na nag stay si Ate Kimmy [Fajardo] for nothing.” (I said we can do it, we don’t want Ate Kim to stay for nothing).
Heart and perseverance
The dynasty established by the 19-year head coach De Jesus has been built around hard work and perseverance. Cheng and Tiamzon have epitomized such traits in their contribution to La Salle’s title run.
But the sweetest victory came to Cheng, who came back from a torn ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament). Both her and the entire team fought through ups and downs and have shown that with perseverance and heart, anything is possible.
Tiamzon concluded, “Thank you so much for never doubting us, even though when others said we wouldn’t make it to [the] top five.” She continued and said, “Thank you for being there through thick and thin, through the losses and the wins, and thank you for celebrating with us, and hopefully this is enough to help you for [all] the support [you’ve given us].”