Roughly a month after the culmination of the UAAP Season 79 Women’s Volleyball Tournament, the DLSU Lady Spikers were back to work as most of them competed under the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers in the Philippine Superliga’s (PSL) recently concluded 2017 Rebisco All Filipino Conference. The Ramil De Jesus-led team filled mostly by different generations of Lady Spikers, from Cha Cruz to Aduke Ogunsanya, came in to the tournament as the defending champions keen on keeping their title.
The Cargo Movers have had an impressive record in the conference’s history so far, going back to their championship season last year, when they also won five out of the eight individual awards, including Dawn Macandili being named as the conference’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). This year, UAAP MVP MaJoy Baron was recognized as the tournament’s first best middle blocker and former Lady Spiker Ara Galang as the second best outside spiker. In addition, former Lady Spiker Mika Reyes, who now plays for the Petron Blaze Spikers, was named the second best middle blocker.
However, while the Lady Spikers managed to defend their UAAP Volleyball Championship a few months ago, F2 Logistics fell short in the PSL finals last July 13, succumbing to the Blaze Spikers in two games in their best-of-three series.
It was no easy feat for the conference’s defending to get back to the finals. The Cargo Movers opened the season in a lackluster fashion, as they lost their first two games. Although they won the first two sets in their first game, against the Blaze Spikers, their opponent walked away with the win, 25-23, 25-23, 14-25, 15-25, 9-15. Former Lady Spiker Aby Maraño and Baron scored 15 points apiece in the loss.
In their following game against the Cignal HD Spikers, the Cargo Movers were down by two sets to begin the game. They grabbed the third set, 25-21 but the HD Spikers, led by Jovelyn Gonzaga and former FEU Lady Tamaraw Rachel Daquis, were too much for F2 Logistics. Baron was the only player in double digits for her team, with 14 points on five blocks and two service aces, in the 25-27, 21-25, 25-21, 19-25 loss.
While it was not the expected start to the tournament the defending champions hoped for, the De Jesus-led team eventually got back on track. The Cargo Movers finally got into the win column at the expense of the Sta. Lucia Lady Realtors, sweeping them, 25-14, 25-14, 25-16. F2 Logistics would then win their next three games, against the Cocolife Asset Managers, Cherrylume Iron Lady Warriors, and the Sta. Lucia Lady Realtors, in lopsided fashion to finish the preliminaries with a 4-2 win-loss card, placing them in the first seed of Preliminary Pool D.
Defending the crown
Coming off the impressive run they put up during the preliminaries, the Cargo Movers had much momentum on their side entering the playoffs. They briefly handled their quarterfinal matchup against the Generika-Ayala Lifesavers, routing them in straight sets, 25-14, 25-19, 25-17.
F2 Logistics faced a familiar foe in the semifinals, as they matched up with the HD Spikers yet again. In contrast to their previous meeting, however, the Cargo Movers were able to play at their own pace and kept their opponents’ stars in check, sweeping their way back to the finals, 25-15, 25-15, 25-14. Maraño led the Cargo Movers with 11 points on eight attacks, three blocks, and also added five excellent digs. Teammate Ara Galang also chipped in 11 points on 10 attacks.
For the HD Spikers, none of their players finished in double digits as Daquis led Cignal with nine points on seven spikes. Additionally, F2 Logistics libero Dawn Macandili fared well against veteran Jheck Dionela, as the prior recorded seven excellent digs, three more than the latter.
The Cargo Movers successfully made their way back into the finals to defend their crown. However, a formidable opponent was awaiting them. Attempting to snatch the title from the Cargo Movers were the Petron Blaze Spikers, who recorded a 4-2 record during the preliminaries.
During the best-of-three series, however, F2 Logistics was unable to grab Game 1, as they fell in straight sets, 23-25, 21-25, 19-25. Former UAAP Finals MVP Kim Dy led the attack with 11 points on eight spikes, two blocks, and a service ace, and was the sole Cargo Mover who scored in double-digits. On the other hand, team captain Frances Molina willed Petron to victory with 11 points on nine attacks.
Determine to keep their hopes of defending their title alive, the Cargo Movers were a team on a mission in Game 2. It was a hard-fought match, as resiliency from both teams led to a five-set thriller. However, the Blaze Spikers, who capitalized on opportunities in the final set, walked away with redemption and the championship, 26-24, 24-26, 24-26, 25-23, 15-11, behind Cherry Rondina who finished with 16 points on 14 attacks and two service aces. Molina was named Finals MVP after scoring 10 points in the deciding game.
On the other hand, Galang broke out for 20 points on 17 attacks and three service aces in the final game. Maraño and Baron contributed significantly, scoring 14 and 13 points, respectively, while Tin Tiamzon scored 10 points on seven spikes and two service aces in the losing effort.
Despite the heartbreaking end to their season, at the end of the day, the Lady Spikers’ biggest takeaway from the tournament was experience as they continue to grow as players. Going up against professional players is no easy task, but they held their own and gained valuable insight. The maturity the Lasallians showed in the PSL will be beneficial in the long run, especially in their quest for their third consecutive UAAP Women’s Volleyball Championship.