LA Salle coach Ramil de Jesus summarized in two words what exactly he felt moments after the Lady Spikers lost to rival Ateneo Lady Eagles for the second straight time in the finals of the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament.
“Mahirap at masakit,” said De Jesus to Spin.ph in the aftermath of his team’s 25-22, 25-17, 25-23 loss during Saturday’s title-clinching game before a crowd of 20,705 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Lady Spikers were swept in the title series, 2-0, in the absence of injured skipper Ara Galang.
“Mahirap ang pinagdadaanan ng team. Just in case nagkaka-problema, wala kang go to guy,” De Jesus said, obviously referring to Galang, who’s averaging more than 20 points for the team this season.
“Mahirap kasing makabalik lalo na kung alam mong kulang (ang tao).”
Looking back, the multi-titled coach could only wish Galang’s injury came a little earlier in order for the Lady Spikers to make the necessary adjustments.
Galang incurred an ACL, MCL, medial meniscus tear, and big bone bruises on her left knee after landing awkwardly in La Salle’s do-or-die game against National University for the last finals berth.
“Mas maganda sana kung mas maagang nangyari ‘yun para mas nakapag-adjust ‘yung mga bata, kasi mahirap sa Finals pa nawala si Ara,” De Jesus reasoned out.
“So ‘yun ‘yung mabigat team captain pa man din, leader ang nawala. Psychologically, mahirap talaga makabalik,” he added.
It was the second straight finals loss for the Lady Spikers against the same opponent after the Lady Eagles denied them of a four-peat last year.
For the 18-year La Salle mentor, that title loss to was a more bitter pill to swallow since the Lady Eagles were armed with a thrice-to-bead advantage in the finals after completing a 14-game sweep of the eliminations.
“Last year, ‘yung last year ang masakit. Kasi kami naka-sweep kami noon, mataas ang expectations namin.”
De Jesus tried to put up a brave front before a national audience as he accepted the loss like a true gentleman.
At the same time, he said he’s proud of what his players did in the face of adversity.
“Hindi ko naman masasabi na masaya kasi talo, pero ang gusto ko lang naman mag-perform ng maayos ang mga bata at nagbigay naman sila ng best nila,” he said of the Lady Spikers, who also missed the services of another injured player in Camille Cruz.
“So alam naman natin na wala yung best scorer, kahit papano pinilit nila na pasayahin ‘yung mga andito (sa MOA Arena),” he continued.
“Para sa akin maganda na ‘yung ginawa nila, maganda na ‘yung pinakita ng mga bata sa performance nila without Ara.”