DE La Salle coach Ramil De Jesus has nothing but gratitude for Desiree Cheng despite the Lady Spikers coming up short against twice-to-beat University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP Final Four on Sunday.
Cheng bowed out as the team captain of the first La Salle team in a decade not to reach the UAAP women's volleyball finals, but De Jesus said he is proud of how the senior player led a retooled side made up mostly of youngsters,
“Para sa akin, ginawa naman niya yung sa side niya. Kung ano yung dapat sa team, sa abot ng kaya niya,” said the 11-time champion coach of Cheng, who started playing for La Salle in the 2013-14 season.
Cheng scored 10 points and had 13 digs in her final game for the Taft-based school, which ended with a five-set loss to the UST Tigresses at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The team captain gathered her teammates for one last huddle at midcourt, shook hands with the winning team, and then took a bow before La Salle fans among the 14,000 fans in attendance before breaking down in tears.
Last season's Best Server was still crying as she left the dugout, declining interview requests as La Salle fans cheered the team on outside the venue.
She took to Twitter to say what was in her heart all along.
"Buong puso akong nag papasalamat sa inyong lahat ???? iba kayo, sobra,” Cheng said, punctuating the post with a green heart.
It wasn't the farewell envisioned by the former Finals MVP, who won two UAAP titles the past two years after missing the 2016 season due to an ACL injury.
De Jesus insisted all his team captains have different styles of leadership.
“Siyempre sa bawat team captain, may kanya-kanyang idea kung papaano iha-handle 'yung team, 'yung leadership papaano mo i-implement sa mga kasama mo, papaano mo sila mapapagalaw,” he said.
If not for leadership and performance of Cheng and one-and-done player Lourdes Clemente, De Jesus said La Salle wouldn't have reached the Final Four.
“Sa akin very thankful ako sa kanya kasi tinapos niya yung playing year niya kasi halos nag-decide na siya na hindi na maglalaro,” De Jesus said.
“Siguro kung hindi maglalaro 'yan, baka hindi kami umabot man lang ng top four kaya very thankful ako sa kanya, sa kanilang dalawa ni Lourdes Clemente,” he added.