ARE the De La Salle Lady Spikers really unbeatable?
Volleyball coaches outside of the UAAP are one in saying the three-time defending champions indeed look invincible, citing the school’s recruitment program, the presence of star player Abigail Marano, and the leadership of coach Ramil de Jesus, among others.
Veteran mentor Nes Pamilar admitted beating the Lady Spikers or just winning a set over them is like going through the eye of a needle.
“Napakahirap para talunin (ang La Salle),” Pamilar told Spin.ph. “Siguro kung tatalunin sila sinuwerte na lang or naka-tsamba.”
La Salle has been a dominant force in the UAAP the past three seasons, more so this year, when the Lady Spikers are unbeaten in 10 games - and in 26 overall - with the loss of just a single set.
The team also leads the league in all major categories from blocking to setting to receiving while four of La Salle’s players are also in the Top 10 of both scoring and non-scoring departments.
Ara Galang, the 2012 Rookie of the Year, is the sixth best scorer in the league with a total of 110 markers, three points shy of Carmela Tunay of University of Santo Tomas in fifth spot.
Galang is also fourth in spikes with 89 won points.
Mika Reyes and team captain Maraño are third and fourth in blocking with 21 and 19 block points, respectively, while Galang and Maraño also registered 12 and 11 service aces each to position themselves as the fourth and fifth best servers in the league.
Pamilar, who swept the 2013 Shakey's V-League Season 10 Open Conference with Cagayan Valley, mentioned discipline and the leadership of Marano as the two major factors for the team’s success.
“Unang-una 'yung disiplina nila. Naka-quarters sila eh, lahat sila sama-sama, natututukan sila ni Ramil. Kaya iba ang concentration ng players,” he said.
“Pangalawa, si Aby. Iba ang leadership niya sa loob ng court. Napapataas niya ang morale ng teammates niya. Para nga siyang sundalo eh, once na sabihin niya sinusunod talaga. 'Yun ang pinaka-maganda sa team nila.”
“Well, of course credit 'yan kay Ramil at kay Aby at sa buong team na rin, kaya masasabi ko na napakahirap talunin ng La Salle ngayon. Solid sila.”
Perpetual Help coach Sammy Acaylar, whose Lady Altas are also gunning for a third straight NCAA championship, shared the same view.
“Well of course, sa nakikita ko they prepared a lot for that,” said Acaylar. “Yung recruitment nila napakaganda, tumututok lahat mga coaches and managers plus the motivation of the coaches.”
“But bilog ang bola. May araw na di maganda ang laro ng isang player, but so far ngayon, sa nakikita ko, they're strong, they're complete,” he added.
“I'm not saying na hindi sila matatalo, but mahirap silang talunin ngayon.”
College of St. Benilde rookie coach Macky Cariño believes in the capability of the Lady Spikers.
“Yes, sobrang hirap talunin ng La Salle this season sa UAAP,” he said. “Sobrang intact nila, buo 'yung team plus maganda ang systema ni coach Ramil na sinusunod ng mga bata.”
Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix runner-up and Systema mentor Sammy Gaddi has gone on and made it on record that La Salle is unbeatable.
“As a Lasallite, too, of course unbeatable and DLSU,” he said.
But to all these, De Jesus tried his best to play down what his Lady Spikers have accomplished so far.
“Hindi naman namin iniisip kung three sets, basta masaya na kami kapag panalo,” said De Jesus, who got the 200th win of his coaching career in the win over Far Eastern University on Wednesday in ironically the first game the Lady Spikers dropped a set this season.
“Walang perfect game talaga, may mga errors pero okay lang 'yan,” De Jesus added. “Kasi may room pa for improvement sa game ng mga bata.”