MANILA, Philippines – The Lady Tamaraws finally reached the summit.
Far Eastern University zoomed to their first Shakey’s V-League title on Sunday, May 25 at the Arena in San Juan as they closed out the best-of-3 Finals series in just two games by clobbering former champions National University Lady Bulldogs, 25-21, 25-23, 25-18, in the Season 11 First Conference.
“Sobrang happy,” remarked FEU head coach Shaq Delos Santos after the game. (We are very happy.)
“Galing din kami sa baba nung eliminations eh. Unexpected din pero binigay sa amin ni God so sobrang thankful.” (We came from the bottom of the eliminations. It was unexpected but God gave it to us so we’re happy.)
The Lady Bulldogs found it a huge problem for them to close out sets, pushing strong at the beginning only to lose their footing towards the end.
NU’s struggles, especially with their 23 errors, left them stuck in a deep 2-0 set disadvantage. And not even lulls in the game could help them recover.
As power outtages due to rain dimmed the Arena a couple of times in the middle of Set 3, the Tamaraws managed to maintain their momentum and resume their rampage once the lights came back to life – to the sheer dismay of the Lady Bulldogs.
Even as NU stayed within striking distance at the start of the third, the Lady Tamaraws began pulling away.
After a Carmin Aganon (5 points) hit towed the Lady Bulldogs to within 10-11, Mary Joy Palma (8 points) led FEU on a spurt that put them on top, 14-11. But a couple of points from the towering Jaja Santiago (6 points) and Aganon kept NU in the game, 14-13.
Former Lady Tamaraw and now guest player Rachel Anne Daquis then took over as FEU began creating some significant distance between them and an already visibly distraught NU.
Daquis eventually bagged the Most Valuable Player (MVP) plum after scoring 19 points in Game 1 and 15 points during the title-clinching Game 2.
Momentum took a turn for the worse for NU when their errors began piling up, leading to a 20-13 margin favoring FEU.
When the Lady Tamaraws reached their 21st point as Geneveve Casugod (4 points) scored on a running attack that hit off the hands of Dindin Santiago, veteran guest player Jovelyn Gonzaga reminded her younger teammates that they were a mere 4 points away from victory.
Gonzaga would later score the championship point on a kill to finish with 11 markers.
“Sila talaga yung nag-salba sa amin,” Delos Santos commended his two guest players Daquis and Gonzaga for helping the team up. “Almost hindi kami makapasok sa quarter finals kung tutuusin.” (They saved us. We almost even didn’t make it to the quarterfinals.)
Meanwhile, the 12 points of conference MVP Dindin Santiago were not enough to power her team through as she missed the offensive support of her sister Jaja and Myla Pablo, who only had 6 markers.
For an FEU squad struggling and rebuilding over the past two UAAP seasons, this V-League title is a breakthrough and a much-needed morale-booster for its younger members.
“Yung mga bata sobrang hanga kami kasi kami ni Jovelyn (Gonzaga) nag-step up kami as a leader pero sila hindi sila nagpapaiwan,” Daquis explained. “Kung umaangat kami, umaangat din sila. Kaya kami nanalo kasi buo kami.”
(We were very impressed with the younger players. Jovelyn and I stepped up as leaders but they didn’t back down as well. When we rise, they rise too. We won because we were one unit.)
According to Delos Santos, who has now won his 4th V-League title (the previous 3 were with UST) the Lady Tamaraws have no definite plan yet for what’s next.
But this championship will serve as a good foundation for UAAP Season 77.
FEU: Daquis 15, Pons 13, Gonzaga 11, Palma 8, Casugod 4, Papa 1.
NU: Santiago D. 12, Pablo 6, Santiago J. 6, Aganon 5, Dadang 4, De Leon 3, Mandapat 1.
Set scores: 25-21, 25-23, 25-18.