[Editor's note: This is the eighth and last installment of our primer for the UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball tournament]
Last Season: champion (12-2)
Key Holdovers: Desiree Cheng, Tin Tiamzon, May Luna, Michelle Cobb, Aduke Ogunsanya, CJ Saga
Departures: Kianna Dy, Majoy Baron and Dawn Macandili
Newcomers: Lourdes Clemente, Jolina Dela Cruz
Head Coach: Ramil de Jesus (20 season)
DE La Salle is going for an unprecedented fourth straight UAAP women's basketball championship and it's the toughest challenge of all for Ramil De Jesus.
De Jesus has led the Lady Spikers to 11 UAAP championships in a decorated career, including a pair of three-peats. But to extend its reign, La Salle will have to do it without the troika of reigning Finals MVP and libero Dawn Macandili, Season 79 MVP Majoy Baron and Season 78 Finals MVP Kianna Dy.
But that doesn't mean La Salle is suddenly wanting in talent in De Jesus' 20th UAAP season. He still has holdovers Desiree Cheng Tin Tiamzon, May Luna, Michelle Cobb, Aduke Ogunsanya and CJ Saga as well as rookie Jolina Dela Cruz.
Former NCAA standout Lourdes Clemente is also set for one-and-done season and is out to bring her experience from playing four years for University of Perpetual Help to the Lady Spikers camp.
The Lady Spikers also had a relatively quiet preseason.
Unlike other teams, La Salle also didn’t join any preseason tournaments, although some of its players were part of the F2 Logistics lineup in the Philippine Superliga. The school also sent its Team B to the Unigames 2018.
The reason? De Jesus said the team wasn't ready to join major preseason tournaments due to injuries and the departure of Dy, Baron and Macandili.
“Malaking bagay yun kasi halos hindi ko nabigyan ng exposure,” De Jesus said. “We'll see. Yung mga players ko naman, ready naman mag-adjust yan anytime. Lagi ko namang sinasabi sa kanila na pumapasok ng UAAP, hindi naman tayo masyadong ready.”
Still, it's hard to count the Lady Spikers out. The team is not lacking in championship experience, and has always found a way to win under the guidance of the multi-titled De Jesus.
De Jesus also prefers to see his players peak at the right time than peak early.
"Three months naman itong tournament. Hindi naman one-week lang ito or one month. Medyo mahaba. Meron yan nagi-start na peak kaagad, pero sisisid pagdating ng second round,” he said. “Mas maganda na 'yung hindi ka masyadong peak sa first round, pagdating naman ng second round, makakahabol ka.”