An old power is slowly making its way back up, but it is a young squad oozing with promise that is stealing the limelight.
La Salle continued tightening its grip on the top spot on the day Adamson proved its mettle by bringing down streak-slaying University of Santo Tomas (UST) halfway through the first round of the UAAP Season 85 volleyball tournament.
And to prove their seriousness as threats this season, neither the Lady Spikers nor the Lady Falcons sounded contented with their early success.
For La Salle, a challenging start to a sweep of winless University of the East (UE) was cause for concern.
“We were too complacent,” said La Salle interim coach Noel Orcullo, after a 25-20, 25-21, 25-14 victory propelled his squad to its fourth win in as many games. “That’s what I was telling them in the past game. Once you disrespect your opponent, there’s a chance that it will beat you.’’
Adamson was much more dominant in notching its third win in four games for solo second.
The Lady Falcons hosed down the Tigresses, 25-15, 25-17, 25-19, a result that was a surprise considering UST was coming off a thrilling five-set victory over defending champion National University (NU) that ended the Lady Bulldogs’ 20-game winning streak.
But Adamson coach Jerry Yee said his team’s progress would mean nothing if the Lady Falcons fail to press on against other contenders—including a La Salle team looking ready to restore an old order.
“There are still must-win games coming up,” Yee said. “If we can snatch victories from the perceived top four [teams of the tournament], the better.’’
“We already beat UST, which won over NU. Sadly, we lost against NU, but we will have a cushion going into the second round if we beat the other contenders such as La Salle and Ateneo,’’ added Yee, whose Lady Falcons recently dragged the Lady Bulldogs to a grueling five-setter before yielding.
Adamson has the available materials to achieve this, given the steady performance of Trisha Tubu, Kate Santiago and Rizza Cruz lately, together with Lucille Almonte and Lorence Toring.
“We carefully studied our opponents and devised a plan on how we can attack efficiently,’’ said Santiago, who smashed the UST defense with 11 attacks out of her 13 points.
Tubu also finished with 13 points, punctuated by a lightning-quick kill on the final set that snuffed the hopes of the Tigresses. Cruz added 12 points with four blocks and Almonte came up with 10 points.
“We really prepared for this game. We had a viewing (of UST’s game against NU) and we trained specific drills for this game,’’ said Cruz. “We’re happy with the win, but we all know that there’s still more room for improvement.’’
Beefing up record
Thea Gagate was at the forefront of La Salle’s defense at the net, collecting five of her team’s total 15 blocks on the way to 13 points.
Gagate highlighted the Lady Spikers’ edge at the net, but it was precisely that advantage that Orcullo felt his team could have pounced on more.
“I’m not satisfied because we can do more with our height. As you can see from the height discrepancy, we can dominate the front line more. But UE scored more attacks by 10 points,” said Orcullo.
UE scored 40 points on attacks against La Salle’s 30.
La Salle won six of the nine titles before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, but lost to a perfect NU squad in the finals last season. But, like Adamson, La Salle is not resting on its current run and is looking to beef up its record to close out the first round.
“It’s still a long way to go for us. It’s a long tournament so we can’t be complacent even if we’re leading,” said Orcullo. “Even if we’re on top, we have to keep on working in practice and improve every game. We have to polish everything going into the second round.”
—WITH A REPORT FROM LANCE AGCAOILI
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