Even the most ardent fans didn’t see that upset coming.
Heading into their semis bout against the National University Lady Bulldogs with a precious twice-to-beat advantage, the well-rested De La Salle Lady Spikers were left in shambles as they fell to last year’s second-runner up in straight sets, 20-25, 20-25, 19-25, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
La Salle dominated NU in both encounters in the elimination round. Given those one-sided affairs, it was a safe bet that DLSU would once again book its return trip to the championship round for them to settle their unfinished business with the Ateneo Lady Eagles.
Contrary to the casual fan’s perspective, the rust accumulated from the long break wasn’t a factor for La Salle as a hungrier and a more confident NU simply outplayed them.
“Di ko napansin [ang rust from the long break] pero hindi ko rin siya nakikitang factor,” said a stoic Ara Galang moments after coming out from her team’s dugout. “Basta hindi pa naman tapos [ang series na ito].”
Also, Jaja Santiago’s huge emphasis on mental toughness prior to this matchup was very evident on her team, as everyone who stepped in the court got their game going.
“Gusto namin mawala sa kanila yung lakas ng loob nila,” said Santiago after their encounter with FEU last week. “Gusto namin na angat ang sarili namin at kailangan namin sirain ang momentum nila kapag umaangat sila. Kailangan namin ng angas.”
Admitting wholeheartedly that her team was caught by surprise with NU’s impressive play, Galang stressed that what’s done is done and everything that happened in this game must be forgotten.
With their season on the line in their upcoming do-or-die encounter with the Lady Bulldogs, she indicated that her team must perform better in order to get things straight.
“Siguro off lang talaga [kami against NU], siyempre wala naman nag-eexpect ng ganon [ang outcome ng game,” Galang said. “Tapos na eh, kailangan lang namin bumangon at kailangan maging ready sa lahat ng bagay.”
The next game between La Salle and NU will be this Saturday 4pm, at the Mall of Asia Arena. The winner of the match will advance to the championship round.