Starting off the season with a similar yet different set of players, the DLSU Lady Spikers faced several challenges yet still came out on top with the same exceptional performance they have always given.
Despite the doubts and challenges faced by the DLSU Lady Spikers this UAAP Season 80, the team achieved a rare feat by earning themselves a three-peat last April. As The Lasallian’s Team of the Year, the Lady Spikers entered the season as the defending champions but lacked one of its vital players, former team captain Kim Fajardo, due to her graduation. With a similar yet very different Lady Spikers team, the team of Coach Ramil De Jesus struggled this year but still succeeded in the attainment of its ultimate goal: a championship.
While the team suffered some early shortcomings in the first round, the Lady Spikers closed the competition with a near perfect record, along with a title and yet another accolade for the humble head De Jesus.
The road to the finals
At the beginning of the season, the Lady Spikers went up against the UST Golden Tigresses in a thrilling five-set match to set their momentum in the next games. While they started well, the team would eventually fall to the NU Lady Bulldogs and the AdU Lady Falcons. The two matches were similar in such a way that they committed numerous errors that were not befitting of a champion. This prompted De Jesus to state in an interview that his team played like a group that did not belong in the UAAP. The criticism from their coach and from fans watching the UAAP as well, woke up and challenged the Lady Spikers to do better.
The Lasallians elevated their level of play and dominated their next assignments in the first round. DLSU showed why they were the previous champions as they defeated their archrivals, the ADMU Lady Eagles, in a four-set match. At the end of the first round, the Lady Spikers placed second, just behind the Lady Bulldogs, with a 5-2 win-loss record.
The loss of Fajardo was clearly seen in the early games of La Salle, but after a few games in, Michelle Cobb was able to shake off the pressure from everyone–including De Jesus, and ease into her role as a different setter as compared to Fajardo.
Meanwhile, the second round of the tournament was swept by the Green-and-White as they went on and won all their assignments in the second round of Season 80. Some of those matched were still a challenge for the defending champions, yet at the end of those games the Lady Spikers would still end up clinching the win for themselves.
Soon enough, DLSU once more brought the title to Taft, with De Jesus now having 11 titles under his belt after bringing the Lady Spikers to the Finals 17 times in his 20 years at the helm. Aside from the crown, Desiree Cheng won the Best Server award, and Dawn Macandili was awarded the Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) to cap off their Season 80 campaign.
The rare three-peat win was a feat in itself for players such as Macandili, Kim Kianna Dy, and Majoy Baron to end their collegiate careers with such an accolade. Their graduations will leave a huge gap in the roster of De Jesus, but it could also pave the way for new players to shine through and continue the legacy of their seniors.
The Lady Spikers continue to be one of the most consistent DLSU teams and they should once again be a force to be reckoned with in Season 81.