It was the third set and the De La Salle University (DLSU) Lady Spikers were two points away from clinching the championship in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 75 Women’s Volleyball. Team captain Abigail Maraño was at the back row while teammate Ara Galang was ready to serve.
“I told Ate Mel (Melissa Gohing) these two points are for you,” recalls Maraño. “We were teary-eyed. It’s Ate Mel and Wensh’s (Tiu) last year in the team. I dedicated the game to them.”
It was a bittersweet moment for Maraño but definitely her most memorable during last week’s championship match against the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) Lady Eagles. The DLSU Lady Spikers ultimately prevailed and won the title, winning their three-peat victory objective.
The match, which was held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, was one of the most watched games in the UAAP. Who says a volleyball match can’t bring in the crowd like basketball games do? As far as school spirit is concerned, there is no better match than from two sports teams coming from legendary rival schools DLSU and AdMU.
ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
The DLSU Lady Spikers now have a total of eight championship crowns. The team’s first victory was in UAAP’s Season 62 (1999-2000) while their first three consecutive championship wins were from Season 66 to 68. This makes the DLSU women’s volleyball team one of the formidable teams to beat in the league. And although the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws hold the record of 29 championship titles, the Lady Spikers are gearing for more titles in the future.
For the players, getting to where they are now was not easy. They had to train every day to be in the best possible condition. According to Maraño, they train four to five hours in the morning that is why every team member’s class schedule starts in the afternoon. Before the championship, they had to train extra hard.
“We had to concentrate on the championship matches and train extra hours, that’s why we had to miss our classes. We also had to rest more and relax because it’s also stressful. Good thing our professors are understanding, and gave us a chance to make up after the championship,” says the 20-year-old senior AB Philippine Studies student who is happy that their hard work has finally paid off.
Maraño admits though that the Ateneo Lady Eagles is a difficult team to beat. She says that it is because of their coach Ramil de Jesus that the team is doing very well in the league. De Jesus, she adds, was the first person who believed that they can win the championship.
“Coach saw how we play, how we use our hearts in the game. We know what we were fighting for and he knew that we will succeed because we do our best. He always asks us to listen to him because he knows our faults and he knows how we can win and we did,” Maraño says of their coach who refused to be interviewed.
Maraño along with teammate Ara Galang were named overall Most Valuable Players (MVP) while Michelle Gumabao was named Finals MVP. The team finished the second championship game with 25-23, 25-20, and 25-16 victory.
“We did not doubt ourselves. We believe in our skills and we believe that we are champions. We did it one step at a time. As a captain, I always tell my teammates that we have to show to the world what we are capable of. And most of all, we are grateful to our Lord, he is the reason why we are here. He gave the skills that we have,” Maraño says.
THE BEST REWARD
Aside from the trophy as prize, the Lady Spikers gave themselves a much-needed reward. After the game, the team celebrated with a dinner with family, friends, and supporters, and later on indulged in a body spa to de-stress themselves from all the training their bodies had to endure the whole season.
But Maraño says the best reward that they got from all their hardwork was the overwhelming support of their fans. Even though volleyball is not as popular as other sports in the country, there are still people who support the game and the teams who play in it. This was evident during the first matches in the UAAP women’s volleyball as the games drew in unexpected crowds.
“The support is overwhelming. We are thankful to all the supporters of the team. They believed in us. We drew inspiration from from. Their support boosted our morale. And of course, our families supported us all the way,” Maraño says.
Apart from them, young volleyball fans also look up to the team. These people, Maraño says, are the supporters they are most thankful for because they are the ones who will hopefully continue the tradition, and make Philippine volleyball even more popular in the future.
“I want them to have the ‘never say die’ attitude. You have to pursue and reach for that dream. Before I didn’t think of myself as the best player but I trained hard to get to where I am now. As long as you can do it — do it. Show to the world that you can do it and don’t let them tell you otherwise. Do what your heart tells you,” Maraño ends.