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MANILA, Philippines – There was no looking back for La Salle as it romped its way to the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball title last year.
In Season 86, however, the Lady Spikers are now forced to glance back every now and then, rising as enemy No. 1 for the rest of the eight-school league when the new collegiate volleyball season rolls off on February 17.
For assistant coach Noel Orcullo and his players, the defending champion Lady Spikers are more than ready to take on all comers.
“That’s what coach [Ramil de Jesus] has always been reminding us that it’s more difficult this season since we’re the defending champions,” Orcullo said in Filipino in the Season 86 press conference at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Unlike before, we were the ones chasing teams. Now, we’re the ones being chased. It’s difficult, especially since we lost a lot of players as well.”
Indeed, La Salle’s list of graduated players is a short, yet star-studded one.
Season 85 Finals MVP Mars Alba and 1st Best Outside Hitter Jolina dela Cruz turned pro in the PVL with the now-defunct F2 Logistics, while star middle blocker Fifi Sharma and star libero Justine Jazareno signed up with Akari.
Still bannering the Lady Spikers, however, are sophomore MVP Angel Canino, fast-rising opposite Shevana Laput, and veteran blocker Thea Gagate – a talented core more than enough to still catapult La Salle as the team to beat in Season 86.
“We’re very confident in getting back the championship, and we’ll definitely work hard for it together,” Gagate said.
“We just accepted that losing players are a part of the game, so now, we have to show the young players and coaches that we seniors can lead the way inside the court.”
Julia Coronel, the newly assigned starting setter and team captain after Alba’s graduation, said that it is up to her to continue what her seniors started in Season 85 and keep La Salle’s winning tradition alive ahead of a possible 13th women’s volleyball title.
“I would say we’re ready for this season because we have worked very hard in our off-season preparations,” she said. “We really want to win again and get the championship this season.”
“For me, I have to be more vocal inside the court. As a leader, I have to be the last one to give up because I have to be the team’s voice and be strong when my teammates lean on me. Whatever happens this season, we will keep fighting.” – Rappler.com