After being in the finals for ten consecutive years, the DLSU Lady Spikers achieved a rare three-peat championship at the expense of the Lady Tamaraws. Head coach Ramil De Jesus continues to cement his legacy as one of the best of his era. The strict yet humble mentor stresses the discipline and hard work of his athletes which has led to the success of his program.
The Lady Spikers came into Season 80 as fan-favorites and contenders. La Salle still had an intact lineup, but the departure of Kim Fajardo affected their roster. However, sophomore setter Michelle Cobb was already in line to take on the role of the graduated Fajardo. The Lasallians were successful in maintaining De Jesus’s streak since Season 78, when La Salle dethroned Ateneo. In the succeeding year, La Salle defeated the team from Katipunan once again, which was Fajardo’s stellar final year.
The Lady Spikers opened their title defense with a thrilling five-set win against the UST Golden Tigresses, 25-20, 17-25, 25-22, 15-25, 15-8. Their winning results continued on after overwhelming the UP Lady Maroons in straight sets, 25-21, 25-22, 26-24, and after overcoming a late rally by the FEU Lady Tamaraws in a five-set match, 25-22, 25-17, 24-26, 23-25, 15-7. However, the Green-and-White experienced its first loss of the season from Jaja Santiago and the NU Lady Bulldogs, and later on the AdU Lady Falcons. Numerous errors haunted the Lady Spikers seeing that these were the crucial factors that made the Lasallians lose those two matches.
Despite the devastating loss against AdU, the Lady Spikers showed the whole UAAP why they were the defending champions in their first-round finale against their archrivals, the ADMU Lady Eagles by winning in four sets, 25-20, 25-17, 24-26, 25-20. DLSU ended the first-round with a 5-2 win-loss record, and in spite of the two losses, the Green-and-White placed second overall with NU taking the top spot with a 6-1 win-loss record.
Second round sweep
The tenacity and dominance of the Lady Spikers were displayed when they went and won all their assignments in the second round of Season 80. After experiencing their first loss to the Lady Bulldogs, the Lasallians made sure that this would not happen again by triumphing over NU in a hard fought three-set match, 27-25, 27-25, 25-16. DLSU would then appear to be unstoppable as they went on to win the next six-games. The excellent performance of the Lady Spikers in the service line, and the prowess of May Luna and Kim Kianna Dy were the few key aspects that made up their astounding second-round performance.
La Salle sealed their spot in the playoffs and clinched the twice-to-beat advantage after defeating the Lady Falcons in four sets, 25-21, 25-15, 22-25, 25-18, consequently eliminating AdU from Final Four contention. With only the Lady Eagles left in their second round assignment, the Lady Spikers again overwhelmed ADMU, 26-24, 25-17, 25-19. In spite of their assurance as the top seed entering the Final Four, Cobb stated that the game against their archrivals was, “A fight for pride, as usual, and this game will give us the boost and confidence for the semis.”
The Lady Spikers garnered the top seat in the tournament at the end of the second round as they finished with a 12-2 win-loss record, with the Lady Tamaraws behind them at 10-4.
As for the last hurdle, De Jesus was pitted against his previous teammate, George Pascua, in the battle for the title. La Salle knocked out the graduating Santiago and the Lady Bulldogs in the semis, while FEU negated the Lady Eagles’ hopes of returning to the Finals. Both teams treated the fans to a thriller series and displayed their experience when it came to crucial plays but it was La Salle who came out triumphant in the end.
DLSU secured the first game by sweeping the Tamaraws in straight sets through a slim margin, 29-27, 25-21, 25-22, La Salle gained momentum after securing a nail-biting opening set which was enough to keep the Tamaraws at bay.
In the second match, the Green-and-White thwarted the team from Morayta from forcing a deciding match and defeated them again in straight sets, 26-24, 25-20, 26-24. The Lady Spikers clearly showed how badly they wanted another title by staying composed on defense and being consistent in their combination plays.
Although the Lasallians did not give up a single set in the Finals, each point was hard-earned against a gritty FEU squad. The recent Season 80 championship was the eleventh title for De Jesus after being in the finals for 17 of his 20 years at the helm.