Jolina Dela Cruz is taking on a new challenge heading into her sophomore year for the De La Salle University in the UAAP Season 82 Women’s Volleyball Tournament.
Under the tutelage of Ramil De Jesus and his methodical system, Dela Cruz is steadily working her way to becoming a full-fledged open spiker — a role which Desiree Cheng, who exhausted all of her playing years last year, used to fulfill in seasons past.
And for someone already accustomed to the opposite hitter role, it’s a change that comes with plenty of adjustments.
“From opposite to open spiker, siyempre sobrang laking adjustment nu’n kasi parang dito sa opposite sobrang sanay na ako, and dito ako nag-peak eh,” said the 20-year-old Dela Cruz.
Dela Cruz was as reliable as they come in her previous position as a rookie last season. Being La Salle’s lead scorer with an 11. 5 points per game average — 11th in the league — in her maiden campaign was a testament to that.
Still, as one of the veterans in a relatively young team, Dela Cruz is well aware that it’s a role that she must embrace.
“So ‘yun, parang it’s a bigger role po, ‘yung ibinigay sa akin ni Coach Ramil,” said the sophomore.
“Wino-work ko pa po kasi ang dami ko pang kulang sa sarili, so nagpo-focus pa po ako kung paano ang mga technique, kung paano pumalo sa open.”
Of course, someone has to fill the void she has vacated at the utility spot. And the one stepping up to the plate is rookie Leila Cruz, who, just like Dela Cruz, is still grasping her new bearings.
“May mga times din siya na nahihirapan, pero ‘yun nga po sabi Coach Ramil, ‘Tiyaga lang.’ Makukuha din niya siguro ‘yun,” Dela Cruz shared of the 6-foot neophyte.
Amid the changes and the massive influx of fresh recruits, the Lady Spikers are bound for one grueling path to redemption. Nonetheless, they feel as determined as ever to overcome their unceremonious exit in Season 81 and reign over the age-old league anew.
“Siguro mas tumaas ang kumpyansa namin ngayon kasi may gusto kaming patunayan eh,” Dela Cruz remarked. “’Yung sa nangyari last year, ‘yun ang naging motivation namin para mas umangat pa po ang team namin and mas lalo pang sumunod sa sistema ni coach.
She then continued, “Babalik ang character na kilala nilang La Salle. Expect na lang talaga nila na babalik po talaga kami.”