ALL Far Eastern U wanted was to gain experience in the Shakey’s V-League in time for the UAAP volley wars. Little did the Lady Tams know that they would come out of it with a crown to boot.
"Our goal here in the Shakey's V-League is to just gain as much experience as we can and hopefully apply it in the UAAP," said coach Shaq delos Santos in Pilipino moments after steering FEU to an improbable sweep of last year's winner National U before a big Sunday crowd at The Arena in San Juan City.
"Making the semifinals and the finals and winning the championship are just bonuses for our hard work," added delos Santos after delivering the first-ever Shakey’s V-League crown to the school since 2004.
Nobody gave FEU a second look even after the Lady Tams reached the semis, thanks to the late acquisition of former players Rachel Ann Daquis and Jovelyn Gonzaga.
In fact, they needed to bounce back from a Game One loss to the Adamson Lady Falcons in the crossover Final Four with a sweep of the next two games to barge into the finals against a fancied NU side.
The Lady Bulldogs, itching to redeem itself from a debacle in the UAAP, proved ready and in top form after sweeping the UST Tigresses in their side of the semis.
But the Lady Tams showed they have come of age, clipping the tall, fancied Lady Bulldogs with sustained firepower, superb floor reception and tough net defense to score the unlike sweep of the Season 11 First Conference crown.
Delos Santos cited his players’ determination and sheer fighting heart, pointing to the troika of Bernadette Pons, Mary Remy Joy Palma and libero Christine Agno for their exceptional performances the whole conference.
The power-hitting Pons Pons side-by-side with Daquis and Gonzaga as they pummeled the Lady Bulldogs while the rest backed them up with superb reception and floor coverage, frustrating the dethroned champions no end.
Palma, for her part, has shown big improvement in terms of her attacking style and net defense while Agno has sharpened her defensive skills by copping the Best Receiver award.
"Pons, Palma and Agno have gained a lot from this experience. The whole team as well. The confidence we got here will go a long, long way in the UAAP," said delos Santos.
Daquis, an FEU alumna who joined the team as a guest player, agrees.
"Playing in the Shakey's V-League toughened me up as a player and I know it did to them (Lady Tams) what it did to me with this experience," said Daquis, who clinched the Finals MVP after firing 15 hits in the series-clinching 25-21, 25-23, 25-18 win.