MANILA – There is no doubt that last Sunday's loss to University of the Philippines (UP) took a toll on the De La Salle Lady Spikers.
It was already the second time in UAAP Season 81 that the defending champions lost to the Lady Maroons. Their first-round encounter was a 5-set war that could have gone either way, but their rematch in the second round was a straight-sets sweep in favor of UP.
La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus lamented his team's error-prone ways after the loss, noting how they gave away 37 points off their own miscues to the Lady Maroons. Of those errors, 17 came from their serve alone.
"Last Sunday, 'yun ang pinakamabigat na loss namin," De Jesus would admit three days later, after the Lady Spikers rebounded with a straight-forward triumph over National University.
The Lady Spikers' performance against the Lady Bulldogs was the complete opposite of how they played against UP. The defending champions committed just 10 unforced errors in Wednesday's game, and put up 8 service aces.
It took them just an hour and 19 minutes to seize a 25-20, 25-18, 25-10 triumph, thus hiking their record to 6-3 and earning a share of second place.
According to De Jesus, he took time to remind his players of their own strengths prior to the match, and the move paid off as the Lady Spikers had an impressive performance.
"Sabi ko sa kanila, 'wag niyong isipin na mahina 'yung team. Yun lang ang sinabi ko sa kanila last Sunday, 'wag niyong isipin na mahina yung team," said de Jesus.
La Salle lost three crucial members from last year's title-winning squad – Season 79 MVP Majoy Baron, Season 78 Finals MVP Kianna Dy, and Season 80 Finals MVP Dawn Macandili. So far in Season 81, his players – particularly the veterans -- have struggled to perform with much consistency; his top scorer is rookie Jolina dela Cruz who contributes 10.67 points per game.
But De Jesus refused to let his team doubt their own capabilities.
"So sa bawat composition ng team, may kanya-kanyang strength. Iba yung strength niyo, iba yung strength ng last year. So, kailangan natin maniwala sa team natin, maniwala sa sarili natin," the multi-titled coach stressed.
"Hindi kalaban yung magpapanalo sa atin. Tayo ang kailangan gumalaw para tayo manalo. Tayo ang maghirap para manalo," he added.
Their coach's message struck a chord in the Lady Spikers.
"Iba po 'yung galaw namin ngayon," said dela Cruz, who had 7 points in the win. "Lagi naman pong pinapaalala ni coach na tiwala sa sarili. Ayun, siyempre nasa La Salle ka eh, wala namang La Salle na duwag."
"Lagi niya po yung pinapaalala, siguro po nadala po namin yun," the rookie added.
"Sabi ni coach din, lagi kaming nire-remind ni coach na maniwala ka lang sa sarili mo, maniwala ka lang sa kasama mo, at maniwala kayo sa team niyo na malakas kayo. Yun lang ang lagi niyang nire-remind na nagpa-wake up sa amin kanina sa amin sa game," added middle blocker Lourdes Clemente.
With the Lady Spikers now back on the right track, their next goal is to put together a winning streak. And if De Jesus has his way, they would run the table to finish the elimination round.
"Sabi ko sa kanila, hangga't maari 'wag na tayong matalo para mas maganda," said the coach, after his squad earned a share of second place in the league standings along with University of Santo Tomas.
Still at No. 1 are La Salle's biggest rivals, the Ateneo Lady Eagles, while UP and Far Eastern University are tied at fourth and fifth with their 5-3 slates.
"Basta ang hanap namin, umabot kami sa taas," said De Jesus. "Kung lalampasan namin (ang Ateneo), okay. Kung hindi, basta andoon kami sa taas."
The Lady Spikers return to action on Sunday in a marquee match-up against the UST Golden Tigresses.
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