FOR De La Salle University Lady Spikers skipper Kim Fajardo, another championship appearance has a surreal feeling to it.
She said they never expected to go this far. That is, until the Lady Spikers reached the women’s championship for an eighth straight year, with their 25-15, 27-25, 25-21 beating of the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws last Wednesday.
The victory once again put them in a best-of-three finals affair with the defending champion Ateneo De Manila University Lady Eagles in the 78th University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) women’s basketball tournament.
“Hindi ko iniisip na makakarating kami sa finals. Pero, sabi ko, malapit na kami sa goal,” said Fajardo.
The La Salle setter said she felt quite dejected following a shocking, 25-15, 25-23, 23-25, 21-25, 14-16, loss to the Lady Tams on Sunday. But the team got back on their feet to win the deciding second match.
The turning point of the game was the second set. That was when Fajardo and Cyd Demecillo scored points which propelled La Salle to its fifth finals showdown with the Lady Eagles since 2012.
Hits by Fajardo and Demecillo enabled La Salle to overcome 25-all tie.
In the third set, from Mika Reyes scored the winning points from her serve as the Lady Spikers took command of the set early.
Scoring 10 points with Ara Galang, Reyes was dominant at the frontline while Kim Dy pushed La Salle way in front, 11-3.
“We’re back. This is my fifth year. Five years na rin kaming nagkakaharap. Magkakaalam ito sa unang game,” said Reyes of her much-awaited duel against Atene De Manila University counterpart Alyssa Valdez.
Yesterday Saturday, the Lady Spikers faced bitter rival and two-time defending champion Ateneo de Manila University in Game 1 at the Araneta Coliseum.
Their best-of-three finals series, which is taking place for a fifth straight year, is considered one of the biggest grudge matches of Season 78.
The Lady Eagles had almost a week to get rest, to rest and get their acts together.
The Lady Archers, took a tougher route.
They played four games in the last 11 days, having won two matches including their sudden-death duel against the Lady Tamaraws.
“I reminded them of this opportunity na hindi dapat palampasin,” said Lady Spikers coach Ramil de Jesus.
The finals will be a memorable one for graduating players Ara Galang, who did not play in last year’s finals after sustaining a season-ending left knee injury.
“Last week naka-three games kami halos four games kami na tuloy-tuloy kaya hindi kami nakapagpahinga,” said de Jesus.
The Lady Spikers lost a five-set marathon of a game to the Lady Eagles, 25-21, 22-25, 16-25, 25-21, 5-15, last April 10 to equalize their elimination round head-to-head.
They closed out their elimination round stint with a 14-25, 25-21, 19-25, 15-25, win over the National University.
The championship head-to-head is currently tied in the past four seasons with La Salle taking the crown in seasons 74 and 75, while Ateneo claimed the title in seasons 76 and 77.