UAAP: Lady Spikers return to their grind for Season 84

After resorting to online training for so long, the DLSU Lady Spikers finally return to the court.

For student athletes to successfully perform their duties and responsibilities, they must possess a great amount of grit and devotion. In balancing academics and rigorous training sessions along with personal matters, being an athlete also demands proper time management.

Long before the country’s eased COVID-19 restrictions, the DLSU women’s volleyball team—the Lady Spikers—had to be accustomed to the unusual setup of online training. Despite spending much time away from the court, the team had to ensure that they are ready to get back on the court by staying in good shape and maintaining peak physical condition.

As UAAP Season 84’s opening draws near, the Green-and-White are undergoing intense preparations in order to regain the coveted women’s volleyball crown after missing the Finals in Season 81 and after the canceled Season 82.

New roster, same approach

Back in Season 82, the Lady Spikers finished their opening game on a high note, defeating their archrivals and Season 81 defending champions, the ADMU Lady Eagles. But this momentum was taken away after the entire season was canceled due to the ravaging effects of the pandemic. Then, the team had veterans in middle blocker and then captain Aduke Ogunsanya, outside hitter Tin Tiamzon, and setter Michelle Cobb. With their absence this season, the task to reinstate the Lady Spikers as UAAP champions now rests on the current roster led by outside hitter Jolina Dela Cruz and setter Marionne Alba.

However, Dela Cruz and Alba will not be the only ones keeping the Animo spirit alive. Currently, the 19-woman roster also consists of holdovers Mereophe Sharma, Thea Gagate, Leila Cruz, Justine Jazareno, Julia Coronel, Jyne Soreno, and Matet Espina.

With a fairly young team, setter Coronel states that the key to holding their ground on court would be confidence and teamwork. “I believe that we all need to step up this season kasi wala na kaming ibang maaasahan kundi kami-kami nalang din,” she affirms.

(We have no one else to rely on but ourselves.)

This year, the team from Taft has another chance of reclaiming their glory, with Coronel expressing that she is confident in her teammates and that head coach Ramil De Jesus’ system can lead the team to success—as it did in the past decade. Airing the team’s expectations, De Jesus posits, “[In] being a coach, you have to believe [in] the team and trust the system that you implement.”

After two years without action, the Lady Spikers are now gearing up with the same team as last season, with De Jesus emphasizing that there are  “no college recruits for this year.”

Good to be back

The Lady Spikers began their bubble training last January 6. Despite living and training together, the volleyball players had to strictly follow health and safety protocols. The head coach shares that the players have to take an RT-PCR test in order to enter the bubble. “If you are negative, you [would] have five days [of] quarantine period in the Lasallian Center and then you [will] have to test again for the second time. If you [still] get a negative result, you are free to enter the bubble, he explains

With the bubble setup, the team is given the chance to finally train together as a unit. After almost two years of online conditioning, Coronel expresses that to the players, this became “really exciting, and at the same time, quite nerve-racking.” In terms of their schedule, the Lady Spikers still train 10 times a week—from Monday to Saturday, and with Sunday being their only rest day.

Being back on the court with the team, Alba and Coronel both agree that the team’s bond grew stronger. The bubble setup gave the players the opportunity to spend more time with each other,  creating a meaningful team dynamic alongside training, they attest. “This healthy bond of ours would also be very helpful inside the court and in the way that we communicate with each other,” Coronel remarks.

Embracing the shift

While intensive training is nothing new for student athletes, the Lady Spikers admitted that it took time for them to get used to conducting on-site practices for the first time in two years. “It was quite difficult to adjust from the online and home workouts to the actual court and ball drills, kaya dinahan-dahan din talaga kami ng coaches to avoid serious injuries,” shares Coronel. Dela Cruz echoes her teammate’s sentiments, stating the need to make up for lost time. “We have a lot of things to catch up on regarding everyone’s physical condition.”

(The coaches slowly eased us into the workouts to avoid serious injuries.)

As the team slowly transitions back to normal, this was not without the pressure of representing the University. “I felt very happy but at the same time, I also felt pressured because I haven’t played for a while and I don’t know what to expect anymore,” Alba details. She furthers that the turnover of leadership and the presence of injuries also posed challenges.

Apart from experiencing physical stress, the new arrangement also took a toll on the players’ mental and emotional well-being. However, Coronel asserts that the bubble setup “awakened” their champion mindset and reminded them of their goals this upcoming season.

“Coming into this bubble, we’ve all been very determined and eager naman to work hard and to really redeem ourselves this season,” she furthers.

Overall, the holdover setter expresses that the team has been “adjusting and preparing well for the upcoming season.” Basing off her observations from the coaching staff’s comments and from the team’s performance in training, she believes that the future of the Lady Spikers “is very bright.”

“I’m very confident with my teammates and coach Ramil’s system, and this year I believe that we all have something unique to contribute to the team’s success,” Coronel concludes.

Challenges can either make or break the Lady Spikers. With the current roster, the road to glory includes having a mountain to climb, especially if the Green-and-White intends to achieve immense success this season.

However, as proven before, DLSU has always had a winning culture under De Jesus’ mentorship. As Dela Cruz reiterates, “Everyone is sacrificing a huge part of their lives to be able to continue to make history for this team.”

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