Sports Sports Feature

UAAP: Lady Spikers seek Finals return as rookies fill big roles

Failing to enter the Finals last season—settling for third place—the DLSU Lady Spikers are more determined than ever to bring back the women’s volleyball championship to Taft in the 82nd edition of the UAAP. Similar to last season, the Green-and-White will showcase more rookies who are expected to fill in the void left by those who had either finished or forgone their playing years.

With a new batch of Lady Spikers coming in, head coach Ramil De Jesus reveals that, “Mataasyung expectation ko sa mga veteran players ko like Michelle Cobb, Tin Tiamzon, and Aduke Ogunsanya.” The renowned coach will now rely on and put his trust in the veteran Lasallians to show the rookies the path to the championship.

(I have high expectations for my veteran players.)

A fresh start

After losing to the UST Golden Tigresses in the semi-finals last season, De Jesus had to enter this season with the vision of equipping all of his players—both veterans and rookies—for the new, grueling journey ahead.

This season, some of the team’s key players will no longer be appearing on La Salle’s side of the court—namely, Desiree Cheng, May Luna, Norielle Ipac, and Lourdes Clemente. However, De Jesus was prepared to fill all the vacancies. “Marami naman kaming mga rookies…So ‘yunyung mga prine-prepare ko sa mga slot na nawala,” he shares. The coach also expects the more experienced players to lead the team and perform well throughout the coming season, naming Ogunsanya as team captain to give direction to the squad.

(We have a lot of rookies…So they are the ones I am preparing to take the place of those who have left.)

With De Jesus at the forefront of this fresh-looking team, he and his squad went back to square one to get a better understanding of the fundamental skills and techniques in volleyball. “Nag focus kami [on] floor defense, and then binalikan namin lahat ng basics kasi most of my [players] are rookies,” the veteran mentor discusses.

(We went back to all the basic principles since most of my players are rookies.)

The Lady Spikers also made sure that they took advantage of every opportunity available to them during the preseason period. The team played in tune-up games, and they even went the extra mile—quite literally. Ogunsanya explains that their trip to Thailand was the Taft-based squad’s first chance to test their team dynamics and their skills. Although they were unable to head to Thailand in full force, the captain says that, “‘Successful ‘yung naging outcome ng punta nila doon.

(The team’s trip abroad still turned out to be successful.)

Rookies accept the challenge

Featuring a lineup mainly composed of rookies, alongside some veterans, DLSU also showed their fortitude by winning the Unigames 2019 title last October 26—a testament to how much trust De Jesus puts in his newcomers. However, the first-year players, even if full of talent, are still prone to rookie mistakes.

Acknowledging this reality, Ogunsanya as the team captain has the responsibility to ensure that the newcomers would be given proper guidance. “‘Di mo kailangan maging aggressive sa kanila. You have to make them understand ‘yung mga kailangan nilang gawin,” she discusses, taking the role with patience as she leads the youngsters through
their preparations.

(You don’t need to be aggressive in approaching them. You have to make them understand what they have to do, what is expected of them.)

Luckily for the team, De Jesus expresses that his rookies are willing to take on their respective roles for the team. This is no easy task—but it is a challenge that these fresh faces are eager to accept. “They [give] us 100 percent every practice, and [they are] willing to learn more and to enhance their skills,” De Jesus shares.

The team captain also has high hopes for the Lasallian rookies, and she recognizes the talent that each one of them brings to the team. Apart from this, as a veteran herself, Ogunsanya also sets expectations for the more seasoned players of the team. She expounds, “I expect [the players] to give their best lang. Itoyung ‘year na magpapakilalayung rookies sa mga tao kung anoyung kaya nila. For the seniors naman, it’s our last playing year, so I expect [us]—myself, [Tiamzon], and the other players—to give [our] best din kasi wala na kaming babalikan after this.”

(This is the year for the rookies to make themselves known to the UAAP scene. I expect us seniors to give our best since our time with DLSU ends after this year.)

Back on track

Coming into the new decade with a new generation of Lady Spikers, Ogunsanya will try to steer them on the path to victory and win the 12th championship for the Green-and-White. On her final playing year, rather than focusing on her personal swan song, she hopes to use her role for the benefit of the entire team. “As [the] team captain, I expect na syempre, mabigyan ko ng good exit ‘yung year nato,” she highlights.

(I expect to end this year on a good note.)

De Jesus will definitely be on the lookout for claiming the championship win as well. Throughout the preseason preparations, he has kept in mind the exact steps necessary to propel his team toward achieving the ultimate goal. As he specifies, “Kailangan mabuo munayung team, magkaroon ulit ng confidence. Then mag-lead ‘yung mga seniors para makabalik kami sa Finals.”

(We need to reinforce the team and regain our confidence. The seniors also need to take the lead in order for us to return to the Finals.)

With the tournament quickly approaching, the Lady Spikers are undoubtedly looking forward to battling it out with the other strong teams on the court, and fighting for a rightful place in the championships. They will not back down easily, Ogunsanya affirms, “‘Di kami papayag na hindi kami [makakasama] sa Finals ulit this year.”

(We will be in the Finals again this year––we won’t be content with anything less.)

Drew Beltran Acierto

By Drew Beltran Acierto

Annika Cañiza

By Annika Cañiza

Leave a Reply