As if to underline the agony, burly Opposite Hitter Mark Christian Enciso finally ended the three-year wait of San Beda College with an emphatic hit against the Arellano University Chiefs in their playoff for the last semifinals slot last Tuesday. With the initial mission accomplished for Red Spikers, the boys from Mendiola now look forward to the next challenge.
Season 90 was a tournament the Red Spikers would like to forget. Just two years removed from their last Finals, and hence, also their last post-season appearance, San Beda had finished winless after the single round robin. Most of the players supposed to be on their roster had been ineligible.
From such hardship, Enciso shared that they have learned much. “Natutunan namin na ibigay yung lahat ng kailangan naming gawin. Tsaka yung sa grades, nagsipag lang kami. Yun muna yung main goal.”
Leading Best Setter candidate John Carlo Desuyo added that he had really tried to improve as a playmaker. “Importante po kasi talaga [yung role ko], kasi ako po yung hindi dapat mataranta,” he emphasized. As such, Desuyo tweaked his decision-making inside. He explained, “Yung sa diskarte lang po, kasi iba yung last year kesa ngayon.”
The road back
With most of their recruits finally given the go signal to participate this year, Enciso commented that the team felt they could finally return to the Final Four. The team’s top scorer also said that they worked hard in training and each member continued to motivate everyone. He said the primary reason for their having gotten this far is their team chemistry. “Yung pagkakaibigan namin dinadala namin sa loob ng court,” he shared.
Enciso also said that the Red Spikers finally saw their target coming through as they matured well into the season. The wing attacker believed that their approach of taking it “point by point, inch by inch” worked well. He also noted that the team have achieved their desired level of maturity inside the court, a characteristic of a team in title-contention. He furthered, “Yung peak ng laro as a team. Kasi kaya kami natatalo dati, immature pa kami. Ngayon, unti-unti, pinag-aaralan namin kung paano iaayos yung team.”
No turning back
It will be a tall order for the current crop of the Red Spikers, but they are sure to try and make it back to the last dance. As Desuyo put it, “dream bigger.”
The San Beda College Red Spikers and their semifinal opponents, the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals, are two of the most in-form teams in the league so far this year, both in terms of level of play and win-loss records. The defending champions, EAC, have swept both of the other semifinalists, College of Saint Benilde and University of Perpetual Help System DALTA. Meanwhile, the Red Spikers suffered a tight four-set loss against the Altas before disposing of the Chiefs the other day.
It should be noted, however, that San Beda have out-gunned their past two opponents in terms of attacks, something that can be attributed to the brilliant ball distribution of Desuyo. The third-year setter believed that the entry of decent spikers was also what helped him in his playmaking duties. The setter said, “Nagtitiwala naman ako sa kanila na kaya nilang patayin yung bawat set na ibibigay ko sa kanila eh.”
Enciso recalled their very first game of the season, in which the Generals shook off the challenge of the Red Spikers in five tight sets. The utility spiker shared that they had still been on the ropes in that opening match, and yet they were able to hang on against the defending champions. “Nung first game kasi namin, naninibago pa kami,” he said.
Enciso and Desuyo were also one in saying that the squad will try to contain the reigning Most Valuable Player and EAC Team Captain Howard Mojica. “Basta mastop lang si Mojica,” Desuyo said. Enciso added, “Pag na-check si Mojica, madali na lang yun.” However, the team will put up effort against the other Generals, as Mark said. “Pag-aaralan pa rin namin kung pano sila mag-play.”
Desuyo also noted that they would try to take the Generals on defense. He agreed that their floor defense and coverage have been what kept them in the past few games. However he added, “Kailangan pang magdouble time [sa depensa].”
The whole of the San Beda College community has waited for the roaring return of their Red Spikers into the semifinals. Now that they have done it, Desuyo and his wards would like to give them what they want and hopefully more. The setter has declared that the team has been inspired by what their predecessors had achieved. “Kung kaya nila, kakayanin din namin. Yun yung motivation.” Encisco added that, as cliché as it may sound, “Importante naman kasi yung maglaro ka para dun sa nasa harap – yung school mo.”
They might be going by a “softer” monicker, but deep inside they are still Red Lions who are raring to show their “feared roar.” Now that they are here, San Beda are not backing down.
Desuyo ended, “lalaban kami.”
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