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Greenstincts: It’s déjà vu for the Lady Spikers

Sunday’s 25-15, 25-23, 23-25, 21-25, 14-16 Final Four loss to FEU left several DLSU Lady Spikers in tears; wasting several chances to punch its ticket to the championship round against Ateneo, while giving up a lot of free points to their lower seeded rivals as the Lady Tamaraws forced a rubber-match scheduled on Wednesday.

After racing to a comfortable 2 sets to nil lead, La Salle wasted two chances at 23-all to wrap its finals tickets in the third set, giving up two attack points to FEU, and the Lady Spikers were never the same again. Aside from being the hungrier, more desperate, and less tense team, several factors, statistics, and tactics helped the Morayta-based squad to avoid elimination and extend their season at least one more game:

Eleven (11) La Salle service errors. A familiar “foe” for DLSU appeared for the second time in three games. The Lady Spikers’ service game failed them at the latter sets against the Ateneo Lady Eagles last April 10 and once again played a factor in yesterday’s game. With the game stretching to five sets and the match clock reaching more than two hours, nerves and fatigue contributed to serves hit either too hard or unable go pass the net.

More desperate team. Despite being the lower seed, facing a twice-to-beat disadvantage, and trailing two set-to-nil, FEU played loose and were gaining confidence and momentum by the third set. The Lady Tamaraws already stretched the DLSU to a five-setter (25-14, 25-9, 22-25, 19-25, 15-7) during the second round and thus were ready to give La Salle everything that they’ve got.

La Salle meanwhile became tentative, unsure, and not composed when they needed to. After failing to finish off the Lady Tams at the third set with the score tied at 23-all, DLSU trailed for much of the fourth set, while also giving up the last two points of the match after tying the fifth set at 14-all.

Non-involvement of the bench. Rookies Tin Tiamson and May Luna, setter Mika Esperanza, hitters Carol Cerveza and Eli Soyud could very well start for any other UAAP team but are unfortunately stuck at the sidelines cheering for the La Salle six. If coach Ramil would not like the give consistent minutes to his bench, might as well use them in spot-up minutes just to give FEU different looks.

Cerveza, together with Mika Esperanza were fielded in the fourth set and the former produced one point; a left-hand wind-up that caught the Tamaraws by surprise. The same strategy also worked, albeit for a longer stretch during the fifth set of La Salle’s second round elimination win also versus FEU. Give the bench a chance; not only to vary the team’s offense and set plays, but also to give the starters ample rest during the game.

For the second year in a row, DLSU has dropped the first game in the semifinals, negating their twice-to-beat advantage and being forced to winner-take-all rubber match. La Salle dropped a straight-sets win against the NU Lady Bulldogs last year but bounced back to win a four-setter after three days.

If the Lady Spikers weren’t motivated and fired up now, expect a sharper, more focused and a team brimming with Animo on Wednesday. As the final whistle blows at the Mall of Asia Arena two days from now, hopefully those tears of sorrow, frustration, and sadness are replaced with tears of joy and the team’s 15th final appearance in 18 years.

Animo La Salle!