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La Salle crushes Ateneo to repeat as UAAP women's volleyball champs

February 29, 2012 3:45pm

The La Salle Lady Archers celebrate after receiving their UAAP championship trophy. Photos by KC Cruz

(Updated 5:28 p.m.) La Salle team captain Cha Cruz cried as she sang her school's hymn for the last time.

They were clearly tears of joy as the 23-year-old stunner from Obando, Bulacan steered the Lady Archers to a 25-16, 25-22, 25-13 title-clinching win over the Ateneo Lady Eagles.

Cruz ended her playing career with flying colors, scoring 12 points on 11 attacks and a serve to help La Salle repeat as queens of the 74th UAAP women's volleyball tournament Wednesday at The Arena in San Juan City.

La Salle also bagged its seventh overall title in the process. The Taft-based spikers first won the crown in 2000, achieved a three-peat from 2004-2006, and ruled once again in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Finals MVP Cha Cruz.
"Never kaming nag-doubt after that Game One loss. It served as a wake up call to the team and I'm super blessed that we won the championship again,” said Supersenior Cruz, a member of the 2009 and 2011 championship teams, who bagged her third championship and the Finals MVP plum.

"Ibang-iba rin po itong championship na ito doon sa mga nakaraan dahil baguhan lang ako at ang mga nagdala ay yung mga beterano. Unlike this one where I needed to step up and lead the team in and outside the court since I'm the veteran," the 23-year-old Psychology graduate.

Junior Michelle Gumabao, who made 11 hits, made four of La Salle's 10 blocks.
"We were able to minimize our errors. And since this is Cha Cruz's last game, ayaw kong maghiwalay kami na hindi champion," said La Salle coach Ramil De Jesus.

After having pulled off a perfect elimination round record (14-0), the Lady Spikers easily advanced to the Finals, waiting for a week before Ateneo emerged as their clear challengers. The sweep also enabled them to gain favor of the stepladder format, wherein they sit atop. In the semifinal, Ateneo defeated the UST Tigresses, who eliminated the FEU Lady Tamaraws in the quarterfinals.

The ladies from Katipunan took Game One in a four-set thriller, but the Taft delegation came back with a victory of their own in Game Two, 3-1. It was a do-or-die situation for Ateneo, which needed another two games to capture their very first UAAP title.

La Salle's Michelle Gumabao (right) tries to score against the defense of Ateneo's Alyssa Valdez (left) and Aillysse Nacachi while teammate Jem Ferrer looks on.
Momentum shifted La Salle's way as they haplessly launched a torrential offensive attack on Ateneo's floundering defense, which was having a hard time making receptions and following up on blocks.

Gumabao and freshman Mika Reyes, La Salle's taller players, bullied Ateneo's frontline with powerful spikes as the opening set ended at 25-16.

Cruz and the rest of the Lady Spikers kept safe distance from Ateneo, maintaining a lead of five points for most of the set, which Ateneo would trim down to two by the 20-18 mark. A Cruz service ace and an Ara Galang spike gave La Salle a two-set edge, 25-22.

Pushed to a corner, the Ateneo contingent had to have no room for errors, but committed a lot of them as the set came to a close. La Salle's blocking also rendered Ateneo scoreless as the defending champions capitalized on their foes' crumbling defense.

La Salle scored its last five points from three Ateneo errors, as the Lady Archers ended the game and the season with a 25-13 drubbing.

Alyssa Valdez was the lone bright spot for the Lady Eagles with 12 points, as skipper Fille Cainglet was held to a personal season-low seven hits. — JVP/AMD, GMA News
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