Desiree Cheng won’t blow anyone away with powerful spikes or incredible on-court feats.
But Cheng, through her five playing years, has been a thorn in the side of every other UAAP school, and La Salle’s emotional barometer.
From pointing to where her spikes land, to egging on the La Salle crowd to cheer louder, to high fives with coach Ramil De Jesus, Cheng’s antics are notorious. She always gets under her opponents’ skin.
Still, there is a clamor online heavily criticizing Cheng.
It was in Cheng’s turn as captain in UAAP Season 81, after all, that the Lady Spikers failed to make the Finals for the first time in 10 years.
The 22-year-old spiker was too overcome with emotion to speak with the media after La Salle’s loss to the UST Golden Tigresses. But De Jesus was quick to defend his skipper.
“Para sa akin kasi, ginawa naman niya ‘yung sa side niya, kung ano ‘yung dapat sa team sa abot ng kaya niya. Siyempre, sa bawat team captain, may kanya-kanyang idea kung paano mo iha-handle ‘yung team. ‘Yung leadership, paano mo i-impliment sa kasama mo. Para sa akin, ‘yun ‘yung way niya para pagalawin ‘yung team. Pero kasi sila Lourdes Clemente, ‘yung mga rookies, mga bago ‘yan,” De Jesus shared.
“Siyempre, para sumunod ka doon sa sistema, kailangan matagal ka na doon na nasa team para maka-adjust ka sa sistema. Bago sila Clemente, bago sila [Jolina] Dela Cruz so medyo hirap pa.”
According to De Jesus, Cheng had actually been leaning towards not playing her fifth year of UAAP eligibility prior to Season 81. She had already sat out Season 78 due to an ACL tear, making Season 81 her sixth year with La Salle.
Now, for staying, De Jesus is eternally grateful to Cheng.
“Siguro, kung sinasabi mo sa akin kung satisfied ako o hindi sa pagiging team captain ni Des, sa akin very thankful ako sa kanya kasi tinapos niya ‘yung playing years niya. Halos nag-decide na siya na hindi na siya maglalaro eh,” disclosed De Jesus.
“Siguro, kung hindi naglaro ‘yun, hindi kami umabot ng Top Four. Very thankful ako sa kanya atsaka kanilang dalawa ni Des Clemente.”