La Salle Lady Spikers’ victory forged from crucible of heartbreak – rezal404

La Salle Lady Spikers clinch the UAAP Season 85 women's volleyball championship.  -UAAP PHOTO

La Salle Lady Spikers clinch the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball championship. -UAAP PHOTO

La Salle made it clear right from the jump that it won’t be taking home anything less than a title when it ends this season of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines volleyball competition.

It was a rallying cry forged from the crucible of heartbreak the Lady Spikers from 328 days ago when they bowed, helplessly, to eventual champion National University.

Such a mantra went on to become a promise—one that La Salle held on to as the season plodded along. It then turned into a dream which was finally fulfilled on Sunday night before 20,514 witnesses at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

“It’s just what the girls said and promised. ‘Coach, we’re going to bounce back in Season 85,’” interim coach Noel Orcullo recalled with a smile on the heels of a 19-25, 23-25, 25-15, 25-17, 15-10 Game 2 win that installed La Salle as the new champion.

“They did it with hard work and sacrifice of all kinds. These girls were far from their families and couldn’t afford to get back home. So best believe that this is fulfilling for every one of us. We’re really thankful that the Lord gave this to us,” he went on.

Looking dead in the water early, La Salle played with renewed vigor in the third and fourth sets to drag the defending champions into the decider.

La Salle's Thea Gagate.  -UAAP PHOTO

La Salle’s Thea Gagate. -UAAP PHOTO

There, holdovers Thea Gagate, Mars Alba, Alleiah Malaluan and Maicah Larroza played without let-up. And anchored by the stellar showing of rookies Angel Canino and Shevana Laput, they put the Lady Spikers where they have been in the past decade: at the top.

Sunday’s title was the first for La Salle in the last five years, but that drought seemed to have eclipsed the fact that the Lady Spikers also ruled the showcase four times in the last 10 years.

“I promised myself that I won’t graduate without giving La Salle a championship,” said Alba, crowned Best Setter that day.

“I’m grateful for the trust that ate Mars has given me. And to the team, too, even when I wasn’t able to contribute in the previous sets,” chimed in Gagate, the season’s finest First Middle Blocker.

“I just wanted to thank my seniors, because they stuck it out and sacrificed for us. We know the immense pressure that comes with being a senior, but I was able to see them grow as leaders,” she added.

So relentless was La Salle that NU had more to say about the Lady Spikers’ game than how they failed to extend their reign.

“We saw that they really wanted it,” Lady Bulldogs ace Bella Belen said. “We were up two sets, but they chased after us. They showed that they really wanted to finish the [series] today.”

“We were relying on composition. But it seemed they were much more composed than us,” added NU coach Karl Dimaculangan.

It will take another 300 days before La Salle opens its title retention bid but this edition of the Lady Spikers was just as quick to express what they intend to do even after reclaiming the UAAP title.

“The next dream is to get another championship,” said Canino, who replicated Belen’s historic Rookie-Most Valuable Player milestone.

Save for a loss to UST in the elimination round, La Salle has been like the NU of last year: Mighty. The Lady Spikers, in fact, have also never conceded a game to the Lady Bulldogs this season.

And with a bevy of young stars like Canino in its pipeline, La Salle may just have another dynasty in the making.

“This is the biggest goal. And we’re not stopping here,” she went on.


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