[First of an eight-part series]
Key loss: Aby Maraño
Key additions: Christine Joy Soyud, Aduke Christine Ogunsanya
Key holdovers: Ara Galang, Mika Reyes, Kim Fajardo
Preseason tournaments joined: Unigames (October 20-28)
THERE’S no loss too big to overcome for La Salle.
La Salle is on a quest for redemption in the UAAP women's basketball tournament after a heartbreaking loss to rival Ateneo last season, but will have to do it without charismatic leader Aby Marano.
Their three-year reign put to an end by the Lady Eagles last year, the perennial title contenders are out to stamp their class once again in the tournament. But to do so, the Lady Spikers need someone to rise and inherit the mantle of leadership from Marano.
While acknowledging that Maraño was the glue that kept the team together in past years, La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus is dead sure new leaders will rise from the present ranks of Lady Spikers.
“Madami nagsasabi ano daw ang difference na nawala ang team captain,” said the multi-titled mentor, who has steered the Lady Spikers to eight UAAP titles, including two three-peat victories, first in 2004-2006 and the next 2011-2013.
“Lahat naman ng players guma-graduate; confident ka lang kasi alam mong pag may gumraduate may magse-step up naman,” De Jesus added. “Kahit naman noong mga unang years ko sa UAAP, pag may guma-graduate may magse-step up. Generation by generation may nag step up para maging leader.”
De Jesus has witnessed the cycle numerous times in his almost two decades at the helm, having produced the likes of Manilla Santos, Cha Cruz, Jacq Alarca, Stephanie Mercado, Michele Gumabao, and Melissa Gohing, among others.
Expected to take the lead for the Lady Spikers this time are Season 75 co-MVP Ara Galang, Mika Reyes and last year’s best setter Kim Fajardo. The La Salle trio are also part of the national team, under De Jesus.
No final lineup for Season 77 has yet been released, but De Jesus has mentioned two players from the training pool that can be included in the 14-woman roster and can provide quality minutes right away – Christine Joy Soyud and Aduke Christine Ogunsanya.
Soyud, a product of Hortencia Salas Benedicto National High School in La Carlota City, Negros Occidental, has been red shirting for La Salle and will play as an opposite spiker.
On the other hand, Ogunsanya, who hails from Iloilo and suited up for Dumangas National High School, is also set to be elevated from La Salle’s reserve team.
The Lady Spikers ruled the recent University Games in Iloilo at the expense of National University.
“Maayos naman ang naging performance nila sa Unigames pero dodoblehin pa namin ang effort kasi hindi naman lahat ng malalakas na (UAAP) teams naman nag-participate,” De Jesus said.
Although his team remains one of the favorites, De Jesus considers the rest of the field as title threats.
“Mabibigat lahat kasi lahat ng teams nagsilakasan ang lineup. And very competitive sila ngayon.”
La Salle will get its campaign going on November 23 against Adamson.