UAAP Volleyball

Dela Cruz, Alba relish long-awaited 1st UAAP title as career crossroads come

JR Isaga

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Dela Cruz, Alba relish long-awaited 1st UAAP title as career crossroads come

LONG WAIT OVER. La Salle senior players Mars Alba (center) and Jolina dela Cruz (right) celebrate their UAAP Season 85 women's volleyball title win

UAAP Season 85 Media Team

After four years of different kinds of setbacks, Jolina dela Cruz and Mars Alba finally call themselves UAAP champions in perhaps their final run with La Salle

MANILA, Philippines – For the first time in five years, the La Salle Lady Spikers are back as the UAAP women’s volleyball champions following their hard-earned dethroning of the NU Lady Bulldogs in the Season 85 finals.

When the last kill was hammered in to signify the end of a long journey back on top, the formidable Lady Spikers all fell to the Mall of Asia Arena floor in a collective avalanche of emotions as more than 20,000 people watched the green side celebrate their well-deserved achievement.

None perhaps felt more relieved for La Salle’s title breakthrough than team leaders Jolina dela Cruz and Mars Alba, who both got their first taste of UAAP gold after a four-year stay in Taft.

After riding a rollercoaster stretch of setbacks, including a pandemic shutdown in 2020 and a 2022 return campaign hampered by the Lady Bulldogs’ historic season sweep, the pair were understandably on cloud nine after finally seeing their efforts reach a favorable conclusion.

“It feels really great because we waited so long for a chance like this,” Dela Cruz said in Filipino. “I’m just so proud of the kids because now we know that even if we [seniors] leave, I think they can already perform well.”

“We all just worked together for this goal and in my five-year stay in La Salle, I’ve only experienced being a champion now,” added Alba, who was named Finals MVP shortly after being named the season’s Best Setter. “It’s really overwhelming because we leaned on no one but ourselves.”

Now that Dela Cruz and Alba have finally silenced all doubters with a definitive end to their senior years, the big question now looms: What’s next?

Although they have at least one year of eligibility left to spend in college, both standouts now gaze at important crossroads in their respective careers, as the professional ranks will likely come calling for their services very soon.

However, the proverbial big leap is currently the last thing on Dela Cruz and Alba’s minds, as both understandably just want to enjoy the distinction of finally chipping in their own slice of glory to the highly respected La Salle women’s volleyball program.

“We’re just going to enjoy this championship,” Alba continued. “Of course, you’ll hear from us eventually, but now, we’re just here to enjoy this win because this all feels like a dream, like it’s not real yet.”

“Yes, you’ll just hear from us soon,” Dela Cruz added. “[For now], this championship is very fulfilling because we have no experience of something like this since our rookie years. We had to scrap and hope every year that we’d get this kind of opportunity.”

“I’m just so happy, especially since we were down two sets [in Game 2] and we had to crawl back up to win in five. It’s just so much happier to win a game you really worked hard for.”

Wherever they land next, both Dela Cruz and Alba have proven enough to warrant more leadership opportunities in whatever capacity they can get.

Perhaps it is time for their arrows to fly in a different direction, for they have finally hit the mark in La Salle after years of falling short. –

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