Defining the 2010s: Lady Spikers’ dynastic rule in the UAAP

Editor’s Note: As the decade draws to a close, FOX Sports Philippines relive the moments that defined volleyball in the country.

From classic rivalries to player highlights, volleyball in the 2010s is definitely one for the books — a chapter in the sports that will be remembered in the next decade and, most probably, the decade after that.

This article is part of FOX Sports PH’s Defining the 2010s series.

In the 2010s, no collegiate team in the UAAP women’s volleyball division has been as successful as the De La Salle University.

It was a roller coaster ride for the green-and-white years prior to entering the decade. In Season 69, DLSU was banned from all sporting events — a painful fate for the Taft-based hitters who were crowned three-peat champions from Seasons 66-68.

They returned next season, but Season 70 was just as ill-fated as every game where Jacq Alarca, who continued suiting up amid filing a leave of absence, played was forfeited, further dropping them out of title contention.

Season 71 was a year of redemption. With eventual Most Valuable Player Illa Santos leading the way, DLSU reclaimed the crown against a Rachel Ann Daquis-led Far Eastern University. It was, for La Salle, the end of the decade but the start of an age.

From that moment forward, it was a dynasty for the Lady Spikers.

Fresh from winning their fifth title, the green-and-white returned to Finals in Season 72 — the second of their league-best record 10-straight Finals appearances. But a streak composed of Aiza Maizo, Angeli Tabaquero, and Maika Ortiz proved to be the better squad over the Taft-based hitters as the University of Sto. Tomas bagged its 16th UAAP championship.

The two armies squared off anew a year later with graduating players Paneng Mercado and Alarca at the forefront of DLSU while Maizo pace the Golden Tigresses. Unlike their previous encounter, Season 73 was a different script as La Salle plucked the gold.

For six straight years, the Lady Spikers slugged it out with the Lady Eagles — a collegiate rivalry that elevated the popularity of the sports in the country. Of those six Finals series, two were owned by the ladies from Katipunan. The rest, obviously, belonged to Taft.

DLSU captured two more three-peat titles this decade — from Seasons 73-75 and from Seasons 78-80. With the wins, the green-and-white became the third-winningest team in the league.

The Lady Spikers left no room for mistakes during those campaigns as they dominated the team charts season by season. In fact, up to this date, La Salle still holds the record for the longest game-winning streak with 30 — 16 wins in Season 75 and 14 in Season 76.

It was not all gold and glitters for the Lady Spikers, though.

In 2014, they were seemed poised to notch their fourth straight title after sweeping the eliminations of Season 76. But the Lady Eagles, captained by three-time UAAP MVP Alyssa Valdez, had other plans as they stunned the former in their four-game Finals series followed by a tournament sweep in Season 77.

La Salle’s chance for four-peat slipped anew just this year. Their unprecedented Finals run this decade came to a halt this year when they settled for bronze as UST broke its eight-year championship round appearance drought.

Aside from titles, La Salle is also home to some of the countries best volleyball players today. Former and current national team campaigners Aby Maraño, Majoy Baron, Dawn Macandili, Mika Reyes, Kim Fajardo, Kim Dy, Michele Gumabao, Mel Gohing, and Cruz all hailed from Taft.

Fajardo and Reyes were among the local stars who participated in the prestigious 2016 FIVB Women’s Club World Championship held here. Macandili, meanwhile, was the second Best Libero of the 2017 Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship and the top libero of the second leg of the 2019 ASEAN Grand Prix, where Baron is named back-to-back Best Blocker.

All of these were made possible by the genius mentorship of coach Ramil de Jesus. While all seven teams have changed their coaches over the years, de Jesus has been steering DLSU’s ship for 21 years and counting.

It was the reason why, under his tutelage, La Salle only missed one Finals stint this decade while winning six of its nine consecutive appearances. His two-decade-old program, while a puzzle for his opponents, is an everlasting treasure of sort for the Taft-based squad.

La Salle’s run for the past 10 years is nothing short of dominant.

Notably, FEU and UST remain as the two most decorated teams in the league with 29 and 16 titles, respectively. Ateneo has had its moments of glory as well after winning its first three titles.

But in terms winning streaks to championship runs to individual accolades, the Lady Spikers — quite inarguably and undeniably — painted the decade green.