MANILA, Philippines – The De La Salle University Lady Spikers need to remember what they are capable of and play up to their usual standard when they return to the court on Saturday against University of Santo Tomas (UST), according to former star libero Melissa Gohing.
The Lady Spikers enter the UAAP Season 79 Final 4 on the heels of a painful four-set loss to archrival Ateneo de Manila University, which saw the defending champions fall apart after a quick start and bow to the shorthanded Lady Eagles.
Gohing, who helped La Salle win four UAAP championships, said the Lady Spikers need to recover their confidence, especially against a UST team that appears to be peaking at the right time.
"They just need to remind themselves who they are and what they can do. Kasi minsan nakakalimutan nila, parang nagsa-slack off sila pag nalalamangan," Gohing told ABS-CBN News.
[Sometimes, they forget about their capabilities and slack off, especially when the other team gets the lead.]
When they are firing on all cylinders, the Lady Spikers are a joy to watch, and are nearly unbeatable. Libero Dawn Macandili can deliver good first balls all game long, and setter Kim Fajardo can throw pinpoint passes to a bevy of strong spikers, including Kianna Dy, who finished No. 7 in the league's scoring list, and Majoy Baron, who was at No. 10.
Against the Lady Eagles, however, La Salle was far from its best. They committed a ghastly 36 unforced errors, and struggled to block an Ateneo team that was playing without one of its main scorers in Jhoana Maraguinot.
However, Gohing knows that the Lady Spikers can recover mentally and triumph over UST, just by remembering the advice that coach Ramil de Jesus always tells them: "When you step inside the court, tell yourself that you're the champion, know yourself, you're the champion, and the play until the end that you are a champion."
This is the mentality that La Salle will need when they head into the Final 4, reminded Gohing.
"Kailangan na maniwala lang sila. Kasi minsan, pag nagkakamali, bigla na lang mawawala. Very inconsistent. Pag nagkamali, balik kaagad," she stressed.
[They need to believe in themselves. Sometimes, when they make a mistake, they lose confidence. When they commit errors, they need to bounce back immediately.]
La Salle defeated UST in both of their elimination round meetings this season, and so the defending champions remain the favorite in their Final 4 match-up.
Still, Gohing admits that the semifinals is an entirely different story than the elimination round. She explains that while kills and conditioning will play a factor, of course, it is ultimately the intangibles – heart, desire, who wants it more – will decide a match.
"Iba 'yung feeling eh – matira ang matibay talaga," Gohing said.
"Sa championship, semifinals, labanan na ng puso," she added. "Yung mangingibabaw sa laban na ito, puso talaga, so matirang matibay sa huli, hangga't sa last point."
[It's a different feeling when you play in the Final 4. It's about who has the biggest heart and who is willing to fight until the last point.]
La Salle plays UST on Saturday, April 22 at the Araneta Coliseum.