Lady Spikers cannot let past three games define their Season

After a dream 3-0 record to kickoff their Season 80 campaign, the past hell week has been a nightmare for the two-time defending UAAP champion DLSU Lady Spikers. Two loses, courtesy of the NU Lady Bulldogs and yesterday’s four-setter against the Adamson Lady Falcons, were sandwiched by a listless 25-18, 25-17, 25-20 win over the UE Lady Warriors.

Consistency, intensity, maturity, and even fatigue from playing three games in a span of eight days have all played key roles in bringing down the team’s record to 4-2 heading into the final game of the first round. Confidence and decision-making, especially on second-year setter Michelle Cobb have also been suspect as head coach Ramil de Jesus constantly barked instructions at his primary playmaker during timeouts against AdU.

DLSU has been in this situation the past two years, sporting twin 5-2 records in the first seven games of Season 78 and 79 en route to 11-3 records at the end of the eliminations and eventually towards winning championships. But the team cannot rely on past glory to simply brush off the challenge they now have of putting everything in order towards achieving a three-peat.

For RdJ and La Salle to earn title number 11, the team must learn and re-learn volleyball and game management skills that they failed to show against NU (end-game poise and finishing especially when the score was tied 14-all at the fifth set), UE (lack of intensity and killer instinct), and AdU where the Lady Falcons out-spiked (46-41) and out-blocked (13-6) DLSU to snap a 10-year domination by the Green and White.

While the team did manage to unload more service aces, 10-4, compared to Adamson, lack of scoring from spikes and their trademark blocks, together with unforced errors wasted what were leads as big as 17-13 at the third set and 9-5 at the fourth frame. La Salle eventually lost the game 18-25, 25-15, 25-19, 25-22. It will be interesting how, with six days to prepare and adjust, the team will respond next Saturday against the Ateneo Lady Eagles.

Need to be more efficient on offense and defense
Despite leading the league in serving* (2.32 aces per set), setting (9.8/set), and receiving (34.05% effective rate) and placing second in digging (15.4/set, behind only UE’s 15.7/set), the Lady Spikers rank in the lower half of the eight-team tournament when in comes to spiking success (27.41%) and are just middle of the pack when it comes to blocking (2.04/set).

These mirror the individual stats wherein Cobb is tied in the lead for serving (0.60/set) and tops in setting (8.36/set) and star libero Dawn Macandili is first in receiving (51.33%) and second in digging (6.88/set). However, only team captain Majoy Baron ranks in the top 10 (5th) in blocking with 0.68/set while no Lady Spiker is included in the league leaders in spiking efficiency.

The stats don’t lie in what the team needs to improve from hereon. Better timing, coordination, and reading of the opponent’s plays will result into better blocking; a staple of Ramil de Jesus-coached teams who are known to utilize the Great Green Wall not only for easy points but to also demoralize the opposing team.

Spiking efficiency, while traditionally not a hallmark of the Lady Spikers, must also pick-up. Raising the team’s percentage by a few basis points, ideally above 30% should be beneficial in the long run. Aside from better and smarter hitting by the team, Cobb must also mask her plays better in order set-up Desiree Cheng, Kim Dy, May Luna, and Arriane Layug at the wings.

Just before their first game against UST early this month, Baron did say that this team is still a work on progress. Let’s just hope that the La Salle six learn from their mistakes, finish strong at the end of the first round of eliminations, and avenge their defeats in the second half of the season.

Animo La Salle!

* accurate, as of writing.

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