MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle University rookie Jolina dela Cruz put on a show on Sunday in leading the Lady Spikers' charge against Far Eastern University (FEU) in their final elimination round game of UAAP Season 81.
Dela Cruz unloaded 22 points, built on 15 kills, while torching the Lady Tamaraws for six aces. Unfortunately, her efforts were not enough to lead La Salle to the win, as FEU shocked the defending champions in a five-set thriller.
The end for La Salle came on their rookie's hands, too: Dela Cruz went wide on her final attempt in the fifth set, handing FEU the winning point.
"Yun po, kagaya po ng sinabi ni coach, andoon na po, malapit na po kami, nadulas pa kami. Malapit ka na, kumbaga sa stairs, papunta ka na sa (taas), tapos nadulas ka pa," dela Cruz said after the game.
The defeat prevented La Salle from securing the No. 2 seed in the Final 4, and with it, the twice-to-beat advantage. Instead, they now have to face the dangerous University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses in a playoff to determine who will get the semis bonus.
"Mabigat po, mabigat po 'yung pagdadaanan namin," said dela Cruz.
La Salle head coach Ramil de Jesus appeared wary at the workload that their rookie had taken in the game. Dela Cruz had attempted 60 spikes, while also helping shore up their defense -- she was credited with 18 digs in the game along with 7 excellent receptions.
"Yun nga eh. Ang nangyayari kasi parang si Jolina nagbubuhat. Hindi naman nating pwedeng lahat ng burden ibigay natin sa kanya," said de Jesus.
Dela Cruz, for her part, stressed that she was not frustrated that her superb effort went down the drain.
"Siguro po plan din po ni Lord para mag-work hard pa kami," said the rookie from Bulacan.
Dela Cruz also sought to downplay her performance, saying: "Gusto ko lang din po manalo kanina."
La Salle hopes to get another strong showing from their rookie ace on Wednesday, when they take on the Golden Tigresses in a crucial game.
However, de Jesus is also looking to get better performances from his veterans, particularly skipper Desiree Cheng, and their middle blockers Aduke Ogunsanya and Lourdes Clemente.
"It's a team effort," stressed de Jesus. "Kung may nag-spark na ganyan, sumunod na lang 'yung iba. Kahit hindi na tayo tumulong sa atake, maraming bagay na pwedeng itulong sa team."
"Hindi lang masabing pumuntos ka, marami. Mag-dig ka, mag-serve ka or ano pa, dumepensa ka diyan, rumeceive ka, mag-block. Ang dami, hindi lang atake," he added.
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