RAMIL De Jesus has won nine UAAP championships in women’s volleyball for De La Salle, but there is no question in his mind that the last one was the toughest to get yet.
And therefore the sweetest.
The multi-titled coach savored another championship on Saturday with the Lady Spikers' four-set win over Ateneo in deciding Game Three, marking a return to the glory days of La Salle coach and its soft-spoken but stern drillmaster.
“Pinakamahirap itong year na ‘to kasi lahat ng teams, competitive,” said De Jesus. “Ito ang pinakamahirap kaya ito ‘yung pinakamasarap."
La Salle won its first UAAP title in 2000, before completing a three-peat from 2003 to 2005, when the women’s volleyball was still a first semester sport.
During the days when UAAP volleyball was played in smaller gyms like in the old College of Human Kinetics Gym in University of the Philippines, De Jesus recalled La Salle would simply steamroll the opposition.
“Dati kasi iilan lang ‘yung teams to beat na malakas. Bilang lang sa daliri,” said De Jesus.
The Lady Spikers won another three-peat from 2011 to 2013 when the sport’s popularity prompted the league to move the tournament to the second semester.
As the sport grew, teams have also stepped up in the recruiting game, making for a more competitive season. One team that has become competitive is Ateneo, which beat La Salle twice following the Lady Spikers’ second three-peat.
But La Salle regained top billing this season, but not after surviving a tough challenge not only from Ateneo but also from traditional power Far Eastern University, National University and fast-rising University of the Philippines.
“Ngayon, lahat kailangang paghandaan. Even ‘yung mga UE, Adamson, UST, hindi mo puwedeng lokohin. Natalo nga kami sa UST,” said De Jesus.