Eyes on the prize: La Salle shoots for back-to-back titles
MANILA, Philippines— The sea of green that filled in the Big Dome roared and cheered as the De La Salle University Lady Spikers marched their way to yet another championship round appearance in the UAAP.
Congratulatory smiles spread back in the dugout, and although fans will be seeing the girls battle it out for the volleyball title for the 9th straight year, this season's development only seemed to humble them even more.
"Blessed po [kami] kasi lahat naman ng teams sa UAAP gustong makarating sa Finals," Lady Spikers' libero Dawn Macandili told Rappler after their win. "But since kami 'yung nakarating doon, ipu-push na namin."
(We feel blessed because all of the teams in the UAAP want to reach the finals. We'll really push for the title since we got this chance.)
"Ibibigay namin ang lahat para makamit namin 'yung back-to-back."
(We will give all we've got to reach our goal of claiming back-to-back titles.)
Macandili tallied in 20 excellent digs and 9 excellent receptions in La Salle's 25-14, 25-20, 24-26, 25-13 victory against the ever-resilient University of Santo Tomas in the first semifinals showdown of Season 79 on Saturday.
It wasn't always an easy journey for the defending champs as the Tigresses came to life midway through the match. With a returning EJ Laure, together with skipper Sisi Rondina and the rest of the Tigresses, displaying the right mixture of fight and puso, the no. 3 seed snatched the 3rd set tiebreaker to the delight of the crowd in yellow.
As such, the Lady Spikers knew they only had one way out. They needed to fight back harder.
"Siguro nag-refocus lang kami, kasi parang nag-relax kami sa 3rd set. Binalik lang namin 'yung focus namin para gumalaw ulit kami nang tama."
(We just refocused, because it was like we relaxed a little bit in the 3rd set. We just brought our focus back so we would be able to play our game.)
The league's former Best Reciever and Best Digger likewise shared how maintaining endgame composure helped notch the victory for her team.
Was longtime Final Four exposure also a factor in edging out the Tigresses?
Macandili believes a few characteristics of the championship squad may have carried over to her younger teammates.
"Siguro a little bit of both [exposure and just playing their game]," noted the PSL All-Filipino MVP. "'Yung composure ng first 6 namin ay parang 'yung sa last year."
(I guess it's a little bit of both. The composure of our first 6 was like that of the last year's team.)
"Dinala lang namin 'yung experience namin (we just brought our experience) being in the Final Four."
The Lady Spikers now patiently await the results of the remaining semis clash between league leaders Ateneo Lady Eagles and the FEU Tamaraws.
Whether spectators would witness another Finals rematch or an action-packed face-off against a team that almost pushed La Salle to the brink last year remains up in the air.
But the green-and-white would rather shift their focus on their individual preparation rather than the incoming title challengers.
"Wala naman," said Macandili when asked if the team had any preferred Finals opponents. "Basta ang focus lang namin is to be ready kung sino man 'yung makapasok," she closed.
(We don't have any preference, our focus is just to be ready for whoever reaches the Finals.) —Rappler.com