Few teams have swept an elimination round series against the De La Salle University Lady Spikers.
On Saturday, facing the prospect of losing twice to arch-rivals Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles in the elimination round, the Lady Spikers promise an all-out battle for pride.
The match technically has no bearing, as both Ateneo and La Salle have said that netting the twice-to-beat advantage in the elimination was their main goal. And with both teams tied at 11-2, the winner gets the number one seed in the Final Four. Neither squad, however, minds their seeding.
According to La Salle skipper Kim Fajardo, Saturday’s clash is more about regaining their signature confidence and pride when facing their arch-rivals.
In their first round meeting, the Lady Spikers had let go of big leads in the first two sets and allowed the Lady Eagles to crawl back and claim a 2-0 set lead. The deficit was too much for the defending champions to overcome.
“Proven naman na pag natatalo kami, nag-iiba ‘yung mindset ng team. Mula noong natalo sa Ateneo, nag-iba talaga ngayong second round,” Fajardo told Tiebreaker Times.
The Lady Spikers piled up six straight wins after losing to Ateneo. In every match, they displayed dominance. La Salle are in the top two of five of the six measured skills. They have developed into the league’s top blocking, serving, setting, and receiving team.
Last season’s Best Setter saw a drastic leap in her teammates’ aggressiveness.
“Nag-mature na talaga sila ngayon.
“Kasi noong first round, hindi pa sila sure sa ginagawa nila, kung ano talaga ‘yung role nila. Ngayon inaako na talaga nila ‘yung role nila. Kapag open [hitter] ka, iniisip na nila na sila ‘yung ace dito. Ganyan na sila mag-isip ngayon,” the Batangas-native remarked.
Fajardo recalled reminding her teammates of La Salle’s winning tradition to liven their spirits.
“Tandaan nila kung sino sila. Kung ano sila last year. Minsan kasi nalilimutan nila. Inaalala lang nila kung sino sila.
“Ako lang ‘to. Hindi nila iniisip kung ano ba ‘yung team? Champion. Gusto nila minsan na mag-isa lang maglaro pero hindi naman pwede ‘yun. Hindi naman kami ganoon nanalo ng championship last year,” the graduating playmaker added.
Given how the two teams have dominated the field, the championship most likely will be another Ateneo-La Salle meeting. For a repeat-hungry La Salle, another loss to their Katipunan-based foes is unacceptable.
“Masaya naman kami na twice-to-beat pero siyempre meron pa rin kaming goal. Siyempre, kailangan ma-defend ‘yung title namin,” the 23-year-old setter proclaimed.