One of the breakout players of the previous UAAP Season 78 Women’s Volleyball Tournament had been Dawn Macandili.
Tasked to be the team’s libero, Macandili’s improved play had been key to De La Salle University Lady Spikers’ dethronement of the Ateneo Lady Eagles. She also capped off her first-ever championship in the seniors’ division with awards as the season’s Best Receiver and Best Digger.
“Sobrang saya, kasi at least di ba sa stay ko dito, masasabi ko na nag-champion ako,” Macandili told Tiebreaker Times. “Sa training, iniisip ko talaga na kailangan ko magstep-up. So, nakakatuwa na nagpay-off lahat ng pinaghirapan namin sa training.”
“Ang na-discover namin sa team namin is pag natalo kami, we will bounce back stronger. Kapag hindi ka natatalo, hindi mo ma-appreciate at hindi mo nare-realize na kailangan mong maghirap para manalo.”
This piece explores Macandili’s rise to the top.
Replacing a well-loved libero
Prior to Macandili’s arrival at Taft Avenue, it was former libero Melissa Gohing who had held the fort for La Salle. During Gohing’s DLSU stint, she was responsible for fortifying the Lady Spikers’ floor defense. Her steady defense alone posed numerous problems to opposing teams on a regular basis.
“Noong pagka-graduate ko (from high school), recently lang ako nanonood ng volleyball, lalo na sa college. Nakilala ko si Ate Mel at iyon, simula noon sabi ko ang galing pala ni Ate Mel at idol ko na siya ever since,” Macandili said.
Replacing Gohing had been a tough task for Macandili. In her first two seasons in the UAAP, teams were quick to prey on her since her reception and digging skills had not been well-polished.
With opposing teams exposing it, Macandili made it a point to improve her defensive skills with each passing game to help the team play better.
“Siyempre nandoon ang pressure, kasi si Ate Mel may pangalan na siya, may napatunayan na siya. Tapos ako, noong rookie ako, basically back to zero,” Macandili shared. “So iyon, (I built) up ang confidence ko at nandito na ako ngayon. Nabi-build up ko na rin ang name.”
Macandili also shared that being a libero is no easy task, as they are deemed a team’s most skilled defensive player. Serving as the team’s defensive sieve, liberos are not allowed to attack, serve, or block the ball. Instead, their primary focus is to receive and dig the ball well in order for the team to run a lot of their set plays.
“Siguro kahit ano namang position, may specific silang skills. Di ba kapag spiker, actually all-around ka sa attacks, at sa serve. Pero sa libero kasi, specifically, dalawang skills lang ang kailangan mong i-master: ang receive and defense,” Macandili added. “Mas pressure iyon sa libero na kailangang i-perfect mo ‘yung receive and defense mo kasi iyon lang ang trabaho mo sa loob.”
Enter Ramil De Jesus
Since manning the sidelines for the Lady Spikers since 1998, Ramil De Jesus has done wonders for the school’s women’s volleyball program. In his 18 years in DLSU, De Jesus had nine UAAP championships and 16 Finals appearances.
In addition, he was able to inspire and produce quality talents by coaching the likes of former collegiate volleyball stars Manilla Santos, Stephanie Mercado, Cha Cruz, Michele Gumabao, Abigail Maraño, and many more.
Macandili is no exception to De Jesus’ tutelage. When asked to describe their veteran head coach, she said that volleyball is more than a just a sport for him – it has become his passion and way of life. She also shared that De Jesus is like a father figure to anyone that comes under his belt.
Furthermore, Macandili, along with team mate Kim Kianna Dy, had the privilege of having been in touch with him since her high school days at De La Salle Zobel. As soon as she had taken her first steps in collegiate volleyball, it was a reunion of sorts for the Tanuan, Batangas native.
“The best way to describe coach is ‘yung sobrang pagmamahal niya sa players niya. Kasi noong nasa high school kami, parang once a week lang siya nakakapunta pero sobrang we’re looking forward sa days na nakakapunta siya kasi happy kami sa training,” Macandili recalled.
“Tapos noong umalis, talagang nag-iyakan kami na wala na siya kasi sobrang lambing niya sa amin sa high school tapos kami ni Kianna, nagulat kami na iba pala ang aura niya sa college. Mas serious siya kasi ibang laban na pala pag college.
“Narealize namin na seryoso si Coach Ramil sa sport na ito, hindi lang siya trabaho – parang passion talaga niya ‘yung paglalaro. Hindi lang sport ang nilalaro namin, hindi lang siya hobby (kasi) parang it’s part of our life na. ”
Putting on the work
Aside from De Jesus, another member of the team’s coaching staff guided the 20-year-old libero.
In Macandili’s breakout season, she had credited DLSU assistant coach Benson Bocboc for helping her polish her reception and digging skills. Furthermore, Bocboc also gave Macandili a boost in her mental toughness.
“Pinaka-thankful ako siguro sa pagdating sa coaching staff ni Coach Boc. Kasi siya ‘yung tumututok talaga sa libero pagdating sa receive, sa dig, at sa defense,” Macandili remarked. “Iyon siguro ang pinakamalaking factor kung bakit nag-improve ‘yung laro ko.”
With Bocboc also the team’s scout and head statistician, it gave everyone in the team a new approach towards the game with the help of his scouting report and accumulated data. This can be likened to basketball’s advanced statistics.
“Super laki kasi hindi lang sa physical na pagtuturo, pati sa statistics, di ba iyon ang forte niya?” Macandili followed. “May ineexplain siya sa akin na ibang ways para maimprove, maadjust, ‘yung physical skills at mental skills din.”
Back and forth with a very familiar foe
Macandili’s first two seasons saw back-to-back bridesmaid finishes for the Lady Spikers against Alyssa Valdez and the Ateneo Lady Eagles. In her rookie year in Season 76, La Salle swept the elimination round but saw their thrice-to-beat advantage go down the drain after an incredible Ateneo performance.
Come Season 77, both teams would once again face each other in the Finals. However, the Lady Spikers were shorthanded in the series, since Ara Galang had suffered a season-ending knee injury in their Final Four matchup against the NU Lady Bulldogs.
Looking to avoid losing for the third straight year, Macandili and the rest of the team made it a point to play like a team on mission. As soon as the gates of Season 78 opened, everyone in La Salle played inspired volleyball, and she was no exception.
The Lady Spikers were present in the top two of each statistical category and their mastery of volleyball’s fundamentals aided them heavily through the rigorous season.
“Siguro ‘yung hugot, may pinaghuhugotan talaga ang team ngayon since back-to-back champion ang kalaban namin,” she quipped. “Sobrang eager kami na mabalik ‘yung championship sa Taft and para mabawi ‘yung nangyari for the last two seasons.”
Additionally, Macandili stressed that facing a highly-competitive Ateneo team always brought out the best in her.
“Siguro mas malaki ‘yung motivation, mas malaki ‘yung fire ng paglaban, kasi hindi lang volleyball ‘yung labanan eh – labanan ng pride na La Salle ka, Ateneo sila,” she stressed.
With two playing years left for Macandili, she is now one of the team’s senior players and looks forward to leading by example. Being one of the team’s veteran players will surely come with big expectations, but she is confident that she can make it through.
“Siguro pressure nga na isa na ako seniors pero I will try my best to handle the team with my co-seniors in a way na magiging solid pa rin ‘yung team,” she added.
Aside from being a senior, Macandili hopes that she can maintain her improved play and help the younger players of the team follow suit. Defending their championship will not be an easy task given how competitive the league has become over the years, but for sure, it will be an all-out effort for them.
And with Macandili proving her worth during her team’s latest title run, expect her to continue doing it for the seasons to come.
“Siguro gusto kong iwan sa mga bata is ‘yung Lasallian pride. And ‘yung ano, kunwari rookie ka ngayon, gusto mong makatulong sa seniors mo para bigyan sila ng magandang exit na pag ako na ‘yung senior, tutulangan nila ako magkaroon ng maganda exit as champions,” she concluded.