Through all the adversities and challenges a squad such as the Generika Ayala Lifesavers have met, still their mantra is what they value and true to that mantra, they still believe that they can get through that hump.
Tough start for the Lifesavers
When the PSL Grand Prix 2019 started for the Lifesavers, it didn’t go through as planned. They lost their first six games and closed out the first round of preliminaries with a five-set win against the Foton Tornadoes. They also lost Brazilian reinforcement Nickole Del Rio during their first match making them play with Azerbaijan reinforcement Kseniya Kocyigit for most of the first round.
With a strong local support made up of local leading scorer Fiola Ceballos, team captain Angeli Araneta, Jamie Lavitoria and Ria Meneses, the Lifesavers made a strong start in the second round winning three straight matches to help out Kocyigit and Thailand reinforcement Kanjana Kuthaisong. But another roadblock got in tjeir way as Meneses injured her ankle in their win against United Volleyball Club. Also during the second round, Lifesavers head coach Sherwin Meneses made a key roster change putting vetersn setter April Ross Hingpit and Araneta on the bench in lieu of Lavitoria and middle blocker Mikaela Lopez. With that, Meneses put Kocyigit to the utility position to strengthen their wing position and it has turned out to be a perfect rotation change for the Lifesavers as they finished the preliminaries at the sixth position.
In their quarterfinals match-up against the PLDT Home Fibr Power Hitters, the Lifesavers are looking at a hard battle most especially with their tall and strong frontline composed of reinforcements Grace Lazard and Kendra Dahlke, and that is what Meneses is Having challenges with. “Hirap talunin nila. Napakalaki at magagaling magblock nung malalaki nila lalo na si Lazard. Grabe magblock.”
And it showed in their two preliminary match-ups against the Power Hitters as they went to two 5-set matches both going in favor of PLDT. With that, Meneses told her players of their mindset for the series. “Yung mindset namin, dalawang five sets na kami ng PLDT so medyo dagdagan lang yung effort. Kung ganun ulit yung mangyari ulit, crucial, mga pressure game, antayin natin, malay mo mapunta sa atin yung break.”
And with that mindset, they won the match in four sets and force another do-or-die game against PLDT. “Yung sabi ko lang naman, kapag nagservice sila, magrecieve lang ulit tayo kasi kadalasan kapag nakakahabol kami tapos magseservice na ung kalaban di namin narerecieve. Yun yung sinabi ko lang kapag hindi tayo nagrecieve. Katulad niyan napunta lang sa amin yung break. Nakuha yung panalong ito.”
Players showed they wanted it more
Even if the Lifesavers took game 1, still they have a long road ahead and Meneses is quick to remind her girls that they still need three more sets to go to the next round. “Ang usapan namin ng mga bata ay manalo kami ng six sets, hindi dalawang laro. Makuha man nila ung first set basta sa amin six sets, mananalo kami. Syempre, ung morale ng team mataas ngayon kaso hindi pa tapos ang laban.”
The good thing about the Lifesavers rotation is everybody is ready when called upon and that is what the captain Araneta proved as she was inserted by the coaching staff to the starting line-up and put up good numbers. “Actually nilagay namin siya sa first six, talagang kinausap namin siya prior to the game na kelangan namin ng leadership niya sa loob and as the captain, yan nabibigay niya. So balik kami sa dati na line-up. Balik si Kseniya sa dating posisyon which is middle. Madali naman magadjust si Neta. Yung posisyon niya na opposite, sanay na siya doon. Buti at nagdeliver siya.”
As such, a never-say-die squad such as the Generika Ayala Lifesavers need to win one more match and prove to everyone that they are still contenders, and with the youthful mind of Sherwin Meneses steering the ship, it maybe a rough travel but as the saying goes, Kaya Ko.