When David defeated Goliath

It seemed like a mismatch on paper as the Z-Air Maori team of New Zealand dwarfed the Leyte National High School volleybelles. But the RVL 2018 Eastern Visayas champions made up for their height disadvantage by sheer determination. The players of Coach Irene Roa poured their hearts out to score a straight sets victory over the guests: 25-20, 29-27. Here’s how LNHS edged the visitors to Day 1 of the Rebisco Volleyball League 2018 National Finals on a high note.

Communication is key

Were they too loud on the court? I guess not. See, you get better results with clear communication. In their case, they’re not only communicating after each rally. Rather, they are talking amongst themselves on where the ball was and how to execute their play. You can’t fault them if that’s their style.

Would you ask them to tone it down if it works for them? That’s the style of volleyball that they prescribe too and having an approach other than that will take them out of their comfort zone. Simply put, LNHS communicated clearly so as not to lose sight of the ball. When something didn’t work, they were able to talk about adjustments on the fly. That made them more cohesive even though everyone had a voice.

To bring home this point, I believe that clear communication allowed the Cagayan De Oro National High School to win a close match against the University of Mindanao Tagum College. Coach Cancio Guibone had instructions roughly after every rally ends. Likewise, UM Tagum lost momentum by the home stretch of a hotly-contested second set when one of their players signalled for a substitution even though her warmer shirt was still on. A yellow card was given and they did not have the same vibe since.

Off the block

The height discrepancy is well established. But this did not deter the LNHS players to attack Z-Air Maori’s net defense. They played at a faster tempo to throw off the timing of their opponents’ net defenders. Likewise, they found the gaps through and around the blockers to gain points. The spikers of Leyte National High School used their opponent’s length to their advantage to let the ball glance off their arms or hands. They were also successful in finding the gap between the blocker and the antenna which led to a number of down-the-line scores.

Unlimited energy

Not once did the energy of LNHS drop. You can just feel their tenacity from the warm-ups to the final score. They fed off from the encouragement they gave each other regardless of which team sets the ball or who won the rally. They seem to be fully charged throughout the game and its possible that the Z-Air Maori ladies was rattled by that. They way LNHS celebrate every point won is a joy to behold. The happiness that they exude in playing the game makes them must-see volleyball.

Six playing as one

Any coach would trade a highly-talented team for a unit that plays cohesively. Having all the best players in one team does not automatically translate to wins. LNHS manifested unity and familiarity with each other’s game last night. Rarely do you see two of their players chasing the ball at the same time and they were quick to shift to their defensive formations when Z-Air Maori was on the offensive. Their victory manifested how long they have been playing together.

In contrast, this point is further cemented by when Z-Air Maori assistant coach Malia Kerekere shared in a quick interview that their entire squad have been together for just one day and only two of their players belong to one club. That means that they did not have time to even practice together and it showed on the court via a number of poor service receptions and imperfect sets. Building a winning team takes time. Time that the Z-Air Maori did not have. Still, that’s no excuse to lose considering that they were right in the mix of things especially in the second set.

Thou shall not kill

LNHS took by heart the fifth commandment by robbing Z-Air Maori with a lot of kill points. How? Impeccable floor defense. The New Zealanders had their chances but they LNHS defense is already waiting to dig. Everyone kept an eye on the ball but libero Phoebe Baldesco was the most impressive of all. She was quick to fill in the gaps of the defense and her good reception allowed her teammates to run their offense well. They can use this defensive mentality to frustrate their succeeding opponents as long as they remain hungry after this statement victory.