By: Tony Lebron Atayde, Jr.
The Dream Finals is on! The defending champions DLSU Lady Spikers play the vaunted Ateneo Lady Eagles who they will meet for the 6th straight year. Of the previous 5, DLSU has won 3 head to head battles.
The Lady Eagles swept the Lady Spikers during the elimination round. However, when the Finals begin, all the stats are thrown out the window.
In Season 78, the Lady Eagles were the heavy favourites because of an almost intact line-up from Season 77. The Lady Spikers however would not be denied as the ANIMO kicked in and brought the championship back to Taft. It was a fitting tribute to the graduating members of the team.
Even with the graduation of Alyssa Valdez, the Lady Eagles have not missed a step. They seem to be more balanced this season with great plays from Morado, de Leon, Maraguinot and company. They have the deepest bench in the league.
For the DLSU Lady Spikers, they have already overachieved. They lost big game players Ara Galang, Mika Reyes, Cyd Demecillo, Carol Cervesa and Mika Esperanza. Yet there was still a strong core that Coach Ramil De Jesus could work on.
Team Captain Kim Fajardo decided to come back for her 5th year and is the heart of this team.. Majoy Baron, Desiree Cheng, Kim Dy and Tin Tiamzon have elevated their game to unexpected heights. Their maturity and experience has rubbed off on the team. Aduke Agunsanya has also come into her own. Then of course there is Dawn Macandili, arguably the best libero in Philippine volleyball.
Coach Ramil always pulls a rabbit out of a hat and this year he has used May Luna and Michelle Cobb with confidence.
However, Ateneo is not going to give an inch. It will be a war of the walls with the two best blocking teams going face to face.
The series will be decided by two things, defense and unforced errors. Composure and consistency are needed to lessen the errors. The blocking has to be emphatic. Majoy Baron will have to lead the block party and Dawn Macandili has to play at the same level and intensity that she has shown all season.
On offense, Kim Fajardo has to make those perfect sets in order that Kim Dy and Des Cheng can score the points. Tin Tiamzon has to bring her A-game in every point of every set.
The Lady Spikers have to be relentless from beginning to end. They cannot allow themselves to be intimated by the opposing players and most especially their coach.
I am hoping that the players decide the outcome of the game rather than have officiating be a contentious matter.
Of course I will say the Lady Spikers will retain their championship. I believe it will be a 3 game series. If that happens then the Lady Spikers can rightfully say 2>3!