The Lady Spikers we used to know always sensed blood, and always, always, go for the kill.
Not to take anything away from the team (2nd place after 2 rounds of eliminations is no easy feat), or from Heartstrong Ateneo (who powered through the odds last year, and played as if there was no pressure this season) — but what’s clearly missing from this year’s crop of Lady Spikers, which could spell the difference between a W or a L, is their patented swag.
I can still remember that moment when the Green-blooded erupted in Fil-Oil Flying V Arena after an emphatic block by Michelle Gumabao to then rookie Alyssa Valdez (Season 74, I think) — that moment reminded everyone who ruled the league, and whom the championship has to be taken away from.
Fast forward to the year after, La Salle continued to dominate the net and showed no signs of mercy and compassion to their opponent. In Game 1 of the Finals, Ateneo had a 2 sets to none advantage, but the girls from Taft, thanks to team captain Aby Marano, rose from the grave and pounced on Ateneo to take the next 3 sets. Game 2 was even anti-climactic, with La Salle winning over Ateneo in straight sets fashion. Mika Reyes (who gained spiking power this season but lost that net attitude), did not let an opportunity pass to staredown at (again) Alyssa Valdez.
And it’s not just the trashtalking at the net I mean when I say swag — its their brand of game that was missing. They didn’t dominate the net like they used to, or spike as hard as they used to — especially in the middle. A friend on Facebook pointed out how towards the latter part of the game last Wednesday, La Salle’s hits were becoming a little softer, and they seemed unsure of what to do. Even former MVP and Captain Aby Marano “admitted that La Salle is losing its championship attitude.”
Earlier in the season though, in the first round meeting of these famed rivals, Eli Soyud (a rookie) seemed to inherently have that La Salle attitude. During the second set of that match (which they took), she made a crucial block against (you guessed it) Alyssa Valdez, and immediately taunted the reigning MVP. Just to a quick search online to see how social media went abuzz from this specific moment. This was the first and last moment for Soyud this season (well, so far).
These made the game even more exciting, fuelling the cheering and jeering from the crowd; the boos, the taunting from the gallery itself, made everyone gigil na gigil from the sidelines.
And now that Ateneo has taken that outright berth at the finals after having swept the eliminations, the Lady Spikers have more than enough reason to bring back that swag so many miss.
The season is far from over — the super stepladder is just about to begin. I want to see the Lady Spikers bring back their old style against whoever will end up #3, and eventually to the Lady Eagles (who are we kidding, this looks like another Ateneo – La Salle finals), not because I love the swag of the yesteryears, but because I want to see them play their best — and see how this won’t work on a #HeartStrong team, ever again.