For as long as Ramil De Jesus has been head coach, the De La Salle University Lady Spikers had always made the Finals.
With the exception of UAAP Seasons 69 and 70 – wherein they were affected by suspensions due to a mishap by another sporting program in their school – the Lady Spikers making the UAAP Finals was inevitable.
In Season 81, the Lady Spikers came in with another shot at an elusive fourth straight title. Depleted after the loss of pillars Majoy Baron, Kianna Dy, and Dawn Macandili to graduation, La Salle needed new stars.
While rookie Jolina Dela Cruz proved instrumental, La Salle, for once, did not have enough to overcome the UAAP.
La Salle crashed out of the top two, then eventually succumbed to UST and their fiery captain Sisi Rondina.
De Jesus, normally too distraught to talk to media after losses, was still relatively upbeat for a coach who saw his dynasty end.
He lamented the team’s late formation, as they only had a complete lineup in January due to injuries.
In the end, however, De Jesus’ failure to prepare for the effects of the K-to-12 academic shift cost La Salle.
“Ganoon talaga. Dumarating naman sa isang tao o sa isang team ‘yung ‘pag na-reach mo ‘yung dulo, possible kang bumagsak. Hindi naman lahat ng panahon nandoon ka sa taas eh,” said De Jesus, an 11-time UAAP champion coach.
“Para sa akin kasi ,every year naman may nawawalang players. So ang point ko kasi, every year, humihina ang team, pero may mga player na willing mag-step up. This time, siguro, medyo late na ‘rin nabuo ‘yung team kasi karamihan ng players ko galing sa injury,” he continued.
“‘Yung timetable ko late kasi usually, September, nag-start na kaming magbuo ng team. Dahil sa mga injured players ko, nabuo kami siguro ng January. Dumadating sa point na sa game parang hindi magkakakilala, merong may mga lapses. Hindi ganoong ka-fluid ‘yung galaw.”
De Jesus himself looked particularly worn down.
Less than 24 hours ago, his F2 Logistics Cargo Movers had lost the 2019 PSL Grand Prix title to Petron.
If it were up to him, he would not coach F2 Logistics and La Salle in simultaneous tournaments since he dreads the stress of preparing two teams at once.
“Ito na ‘yung pinaka-mahirap na dinaanan ko na kulang ka pa sa tulog, kailangan mong gumising kasi kailangan ng preparation ng isang team. Halos buong week ako naglalaro. Ang pinakamahirap naman dito eh ‘yung mag-prepare sa isang team, gumawa ng game plan; paano mo i-analyze at pag-aralan ‘yung kalaban,” the three-time PSL champion coach shared.
“‘Yun ‘yung mahirap. Pero ‘yung mag-coach ka sa loob ng court, given na ‘yun eh. Ito ang pinaka-mahirap, mas lalo ko naramdaman ‘yung pagod kasi parehas hindi naging successful.”
Still, De Jesus is optimistic for next season with a promising and tall batch of rookies set to reinforce the team.
“Actually, itong Season 81 nasabi ko na sa team owners, sa managers, sa admin ng La Salle, na medyo hirap tayo dahil doon sa K-to-Twelve. Hindi namin napaghandaan ‘yun. Ngayon, na-realize na ganoon nga, nag-start kami gumawa ng program para doon sa mga senior high. Okay naman, natututukan namin,” he disclosed.
“Hopefully ‘yung nakita nila, hindi maging reason para panghinaan sila ng loob and mas makita nila na kailangan pa nila mag-extra effort, para mas ma-iangat pa nila ‘yun and maiahon ‘yung team sa mga UAAP season.”