The DLSU Lady Spikers kicked off the season on a high note after dispatching their archrivals and defending champions, the ADMU Blue Eagles, in four sets, 22-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-20, earlier today at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Despite dropping the first set, the Taft-based squad quickly bounced back and combined their offensive and defensive plays to bring them to victory.
Outside hitter Baby Jyne Soreño made a remarkable opening game, scoring a career-high 17 points from 13 attacks and three blocks. Zobel standout and Lady Spiker rookie Alleiah Malaluan also had her fair share of points, scoring 13 and two service aces. Team captain and setter Marionne Alba managed to also chip in 16 excellent sets for the Green-and-White.
For the Blue Eagles, Faith Nisperos recorded 24 points, followed by Lyann De Guzman who scored 11.
The Green-and-White started off the match with a quick play by Alba and Thea Gagate to score, 1-0. However, the Blue Eagles immediately answered back with their effective offensive plays. The Lady Spikers persevered as Gagate’s service ace and Leila Cruz’s quick attack gave them the 8-6 lead heading into the first technical timeout of the set. But toward the end of the first set, several of La Salle’s attack and service errors gave Ateneo a sizable advantage, 19-15.
The Lady Spikers were unable to execute their plays and maintain their floor defense, allowing the Nisperos-Vanessa Gandler tandem to land several of their attacks from the wings. However, open hitter Soreño proved to be DLSU’s secret weapon from the bench, as she attempted to save the set with two consecutive points and cut the lead to one, 22-21. Despite the effort to close the gap, Nisperos closed the first set with a down-the-line attack, 25-22.
The second set saw both teams engaging in a back-and-forth affair. The Lady Spikers started off well with a service ace from Alba, with her team gaining the first points of the set. Determined to repeat the outcome of the opening set, the Blue Eagles overtook the lead, 5-4, after an error from Soreño. But Mereophe Sharma tied the game at 5-all after scoring a quick attack. Since the deadlock, both teams were unable to break loose with a lead moving forward, with the Blue Eagles and Lady Spikers answering back each other with every point. As the set approached the match point, it was a defensive masterclass from the Green-and-White, who then ultimately denied the Blue Eagles the second-set win.
Early on in the third set, the Blue Eagles gained control of the lead, benefiting mostly from DLSU’s errors, 9-7.
The Taft-based squad heavily relied on their defense to gain momentum, with Jazareno excelling at her Libero role by preventing the balls from dropping to the ground and allowing Alba and setter Julia Coronel to execute plays. On offense, it was Lady Spikers Soreño and Malaluan who showed off their arsenal of powerful spikes and controlled hits as they found gaps in ADMU’s floor defense. The Green-and-White maintained their lead throughout the remainder of the set and sat on a comfortable seven-point lead to close the third set, 25-18. After the third, the Lady Spikers were up by a set, 2-1.
Finishing off strong
After adjusting to ADMU’s offensive strategies in the second and third sets, the Lady Spikers managed to convert their double blocks at the start of the fourth, as Alba and Soreño stopped Ateneo’s offensive plays. A long rally between both teams ended with a power tip from Sharma, putting them ahead, 5-3. This was followed by a crucial cross-court spike by Malaluan, giving DLSU the advantage for the first technical timeout. Despite the huge lead, the Green-and-White struggled with their service errors, and the Blue Eagles tried to close the gap, 12-9.
Sharma converted a crucial quick play with Alba, extending their lead, 18-14. However, Nisperos stopped ADMU’s bleeding by making three momentous back-to-back points, closing the gap to two, 19-17. Unable to keep up with the fast pace of the set, the Blue Eagles committed receiving errors—giving Malaluan and Alba an advantage to create offensive plays toward the end of the last set, 22-19. The game ended with an attack error by Nisperos after a long rally, giving the Lasallians the fourth and last set, 25-20.
Assistant coach Benson Bocboc explained that the team knew how difficult the opening game was going to be, but was thankful that the team responded well throughout the match. “For us ‘yung hardest game namin is the first one. Our team is new [kaya] lahat ng adjustments kailangan gawin. [Noong] second set, adjustment period parin eh. Buti nakuha namin ‘yung panalo; buti [at] nakuha ng players ‘yung composure.”
(Our team is new, which is why all adjustments are a must. Even the second set was an adjustment period for the team. Thankfully, the players became composed enough for us to garner this victory.)
Dela Cruz echoed her coach’s sentiments, sharing that she experienced “first game jitters.” Meanwhile, rookie Malaluan stressed that the team’s motivation comes from their families, “‘Yung motivation namin is ‘yung families namin. Minsan lang naman sila makita kaya kailangan namin ipakita ‘yung pinaghirapan namin.”
(Our motivation comes from our families. We seldom see them, which is why we wanted to show them what we worked hard for.)
After starting the season strong, the DLSU Lady Spikers aim to keep their momentum going as they face the AdU Lady Falcons on Saturday, May 7, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
DLSU 97 – Soreño 17, Malaluan 15, Gagate 11, Sharma 10, Dela Cruz 9, Alba 3, Cruz 3
ADMU 86 – Nisperos 24, De Guzman 11, Gandler 9, Miner 7, Maraguinot 1, Narit 1
Set Scores – 22-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-20