DE La Salle rookie Jolina Dela Cruz didn’t want to let her team down in a battle of school pride against archrival Ateneo.
Dela Cruz, once again, rose to the occasion for the Lady Spikers, scoring 14 points to end the Lady Eagles‘ 10-game winning streak, 25-17, 25-13, 25-23, on Saturday in UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament before a roaring crowd of 15,854 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Parang kahit bago kami, andun yung pride talaga. Ayoko matalo dito,” said the 19-year-old rookie after La Salle swept Ateneo in the elimination round.
In their first meeting last February 17, Dela Cruz also shone bright and had 11 points in La Salle’s campaign-opening four-set conquest over Ateneo.
The prized recruit from Academia de San Lorenzo in Bulacan just wanted to fight for their school pride against their perennial rivals.
“Nandoon talaga yung rivalry ng dalawang schools tapos nung training pa lang iniisip namin na Ateneo ‘to hindi rin naman sila magpapatalo,” Dela Cruz said. “Sa amin siguro mas inisip namin na mas lalo kaming hindi magpapatalo.”
The young opposite spiker is just repaying the faith of head coach Ramil De Jesus and the coaching staff on her that’s why she is dedicating this big win to them as La Salle clinched a Final Four berth — its 11th straight postseason appearance.
“Kay coach po kasi sa training talaga nakikita namin ang pagod din ni coach. Umaga hanggang gabi nandoon siya,” she said. “Siyempre po mapapagod din kami sa training pero yung nagtuturo napapagod din so para kay coach ‘to.”
The La Salle coach, who earned his 19th postseason appearance in his 21 seasons, knew that Dela Cruz could carry the Lady Spikers.
“Sa practice naman ganoon si Jolina so expected namin na kahit kalahati nun kaya niyang ibigay,” De Jesus said. “Sobra-sobra dun sa 50% yung ibinigay niya kanina, nasa 80-90% yung ibinigay niya para bumuhat sa team kanina. Alam naman namin na kaya niya yun.”
La Salle will take a Holy Week break and it has to sweep its last two games against University of the East on April 24 and Far Eastern University on April 28 to secure the twice-to-beat advantage.
Dela Cruz is ready to flip the switch as she enters the climax of her first season and it will start in their team practices.
“Yung pressure andyan talaga lagi pero sa training pa lang diba parang binubully na kami nila coach. Kaya sa training pa lang siguro malakas na loob namin,” Dela Cruz said. “Siyempre kung ano yung pinapakita mo sa training yun yung lumalabas sa game.”