UAAP: La Salle's Dela Cruz flattered by comparisons to Ara Galang

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 09 2020 05:08 PM | Updated as of Mar 09 2020 06:00 PM

UAAP: La Salle's Dela Cruz flattered by comparisons to Ara Galang 1
La Salle's Jolina dela Cruz is reminding fans of former UAAP MVP Ara Galang. Arvin Lim, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines – Fans of the De La Salle University Lady Spikers experienced a bit of déjà vu on Sunday when they watched their team play against defending UAAP champions Ateneo de Manila University in their first game of the Season 82 women's volleyball tournament.

Sophomore spiker Jolina dela Cruz had the La Salle fans recalling the heyday of Ara Galang with her playing style and mannerisms inside the court. On Twitter, fans marveled at how her movements echoed that of the former UAAP Most Valuable Player, particularly when it came to their down-the-line attacks.

Dela Cruz is even wearing the same jersey number – No. 8 – that Galang wore for the bulk of her glittering UAAP career.

Yet Dela Cruz predictably shied away from the comparison, telling ABS-CBN Sports: "Ay, Ara the great po 'yun."

The sophomore, who had 13 points in La Salle's 4-set win over the Lady Eagles, won't deny that being mentioned in the same breath as Galang was flattering. 

After all, Galang is one of the most accomplished – and most loved – Lady Spikers in recent history, winning Rookie of the Year, MVP, and three championships in her UAAP career.

"Siyempre nakaka-boost ng confidence kasi Ara Galang po 'yun," said Dela Cruz.

"Pero wala pa po ako sa (level) ni Ate Ara," she quickly added. "Malayo pa po ako."

She may not be on Galang's level yet, but it is clear that Dela Cruz is on the right track when it comes to her development as a player. 

After their win over Ateneo, La Salle head coach Ramil de Jesus noted that Dela Cruz is stepping up not just as a player, but also as a leader for the young team.

"Sabi ko lang sa kanya, palagi niyang mag-guide sa mga bata, kasi may experience na, compared last year, siya naman ang ginuide ng mga seniors niya," he said.

"Ngayon naman, siya naman ang mag-guide. 'Yung expectations ko rin naman sa kanya, unti-unti naman niya nami-meet," he added.

For Dela Cruz, the added responsibility is something that she welcomes. She knows that most of the leadership burden is on their seniors – captain Aduke Ogunsanya, setter Michelle Cobb, and Tin Tiamzon – but she wants to be of help to their veterans.

"Ako na rin po 'yung nag-ako ng responsibility na 'yun, though hindi naman ako super pine-pressure ni coach," she explained.

"Parang gusto ko na rin maka-help sa mga Ates, na mabawasan nga po 'yung trabaho nila. Ako na rin po 'yung umaako ng ibang responsibility," she added.

With La Salle's Season 82 campaign off to a good start, Dela Cruz said she and her teammates cannot afford to relax. They can still remember how painful last year's exit was, when the Lady Spikers failed to reach the finals for the first time in a decade.

"We have to remind each other na lang po na parang may goal kami this year and may kailangan talaga kaming patunayan," said Dela Cruz.

"Sobrang bigat nang nangyari last year eh. Parang 'yun na po 'yung sobrang lalim na pinanghuhugutan namin ngayon."

(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).