It took a suspension and a rebuilding year for the De La Salle University Lady Spikers not to make the Final Four in UAAP Seasons 69 and 70, respectively.
From that point, under head coach Ramil De Jesus, the Lady Spikers made the next 10 UAAP Finals, earning seven titles.
That streak is now in danger. For the first time in nearly a decade, De Jesus’ vaunted program enters the Season 81 Final Four without a twice-to-beat advantage.
They lost the advantage in devastating fashion, first dropping their last match of the elimination round to the FEU Lady Tamaraws; then floundering against the UST Golden Tigresses in the playoff for the second seed.
Per usual, La Salle were mum after their loss to UST, as De Jesus and his wards begged off from interviews.
Former Lady Spiker and three-time UAAP champion Kim Fajardo then offered some perspective. Having been under the De Jesus system, the three-time UAAP Best Setter emphasized the need for the current seniors to step up.
“Kasi una kong naiisip siyempre, seniors. Though nakikita natin na nagta-trabaho talaga sila, pero sabihin natin na kulang pa. Siguro naghahanap sila ng fire para mag-start silang lumaban,” said Fajardo, pointing out La Salle’s reliance on rookie Jolina Dela Cruz.
“Kanina kasi wala eh. Usually kasi every game, si Jolina mataas ‘yung numbers, maganda ‘yung stats, tsaka maganda yung pinapakita. Eh kanina hindi nga gaano.”
During her time with La Salle, Fajardo always had a twice-to-beat advantage. However, in Season 77 and 78, the Lady Spikers lost the first match of their semis match-ups and needed to win in a do-or-die match.
Fajardo is confident that the Lady Spikers will shrug this off since they have no choice but to leave this loss behind.
“Re-group siguro din. Kasi sabihin natin ngayon, sobrang down. Pero hanggang ngayon lang ‘yan, hanggang ngayong gabi lang. Mamaya mahirap matulog kasi andoon na sila. Andoon na sila, ano nangyare?” the decorated setter shared.
“Actually, okay lang naman ‘yung nangyari ngayon. Kailangan lang nila na manalo ng dalawa. ‘Yun nga lang, ‘yung nangyari ngayon, mas mahirapan sila. Kaya nila, pero mahihirapan.”