(Last of two parts)
ANOTHER La Salle women’s dynasty was built in UAAP volleyball, while National University reclaimed the men’s throne and even ruled Southeast Asia as well.
Not to be outdone was Sisi Rondina who ended her legendary collegiate career in the sand court with a bang as University of Santo Tomas completed a date with history.
After going 4-2 in the first six matches, the Lady Spikers realized how extreme the competition was.
NU was looking formidable with a perfect 4-0 record, while Far Eastern University and Ateneo were then locked in a tie in third spot. Adamson on the other hand was also doing well.
A late first round loss to the Lady Falcons served as a jolting reminder for the Lady Spikers who realized that to remain on top needs a lot of hard work.
“Siguro magandang experience yung nakaramdam ng talo ang team,” said La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus. “Sabi nila, kaya naman namin ang Adamson, bakit kami natalo. So it’s a wake up call siguro yun.”
After that rough patch they encountered, the Lady Spikers went on a rampage, winning 11 straight games to annex their 11th crown overall.
“Very hard kasi start ng elimination shaky ‘yung team e. Twice kami natalo so, yun ang sinasabi ko sa kanila, ‘pag nag-start ang season ‘di naman tayo masyadong ready,” said De Jesus.
“Sa haba ng season, naayos namin kung ano ‘yung naging problema ng team. Ready naman sila na maayos ang sarili nila,” he added.
What’s amazing in this season’s championship run was that the Lady Spikers never dropped a set in the playoffs, sweeping the Lady Bulldogs in the Final Four and the Lady Tamaraws twice in the Finals.
Everything went on La Salle’s way this season with injury-free campaign, which Finals MVP libero Dawn Macandili emphasized during the celebration.
Next season will be a new beginning for the Lady Spikers, who will miss Macandili, Kim Kianna Dy and Majoy Baron to graduation.
With transferees Michelle Morente and Lourdes Clemente now their new offensive options and CJ Saga possibly filling the huge shoes left by Macandili in keeping the ball flying, La Salle is in great shape to achieve a four-peat which has eluded the Taft-based squad in the first two tries.
Aside from Morente, Desiree Cheng, Tin Tiamzon, May Luna and Aduke Ogunsaya will still be the vital cogs for the Lady Spikers, and setter Michelle Cobb having gained the needed experience in orchestrating plays.
The Season 80 saw the last of Ateneo’s amiable Thai coach Tai Bundit, a two-time champion who left after the Katipunan-based spikers missed the Finals for the first time since 2011. Oliver Almadro, who steered the Blue Eagles to three men’s titles, took over from Bundit last May.
NU denied five-time MVP Marck Espejo a grand exit as it wrested the men’s crown from Ateneo via a two-game sweep.
Representing the Philippines, the Bulldogs later became the toast of the ASEAN University Games, dethroning powerhouse Thailand in the process to claim the gold medal by going undefeated in four matches.
With Bryan Bagunas leading the charge, NU claimed its third championship overall, tying Ateneo and Adamson as the fifth winningest team in the UAAP.
“Ito ang napakasarap na championship,” said Bulldogs coach Dante Alinsunurin. “Tatlong sunod na Finals kaming lumalaban pero umiiyak kami. Sobrang saya na nakuha naming maging champion ngayon.”
Although he missed the chance to win another crown, Espejo will be remembered for producing a performance of the ages, scoring a league record of 55 points in Ateneo’s Final Four win over FEU.
The Growling Tigers, meanwhile, swept the beach volleyball crowns.
With her heir apparent Babylove Barbon, Rondina was dominant in powering UST to becoming the first women’s pair to win three consecutive titles.
Barbon and Rondina swept the Lady Spikers duo of Michelle Morente and Tin Tiamzon, as the Tigresses annexed a sixth crown, cementing their status as the most successful program in the league.
For Rondina, dubbed as one of the greatest collegiate players to grace the sand court, height does not matter for the Compostela, Cebu native.
“For you to prove yourself na kaya mo, why not?” said Rondina, who won her fourth season MVP award. “Nag-start ako ng first year parang alam ko sa sarili ko na wala pang napapatunayan kasi ganito lang, maliit lang ako. Pero the time na nananalo kami, puwede pala. Bonus na itong MVP. Ang goal ko lang talaga manalo at makapagbigay para sa UST.”
Setting the tone for a double championship, UST reclaimed the men’s throne behind graduating Krung Arbasto and rookie Jaron Requinton via a 2-0 Finals sweep over FEU and tied NU for the most number of titles with four.