MANILA, Philippines – You bet La Salle wanted this match-up. They wanted Ateneo for their first game of UAAP Season 82 and they got it. And a rousing four-set win, 25-17, 17-25, 25-17, 25-15, to kick off their campaign.

It’s more than a win. It says they own the Lady Eagles. In fact, unless Ateneo raises the level of their collective play, this win will go a long way in all their match-ups this year (assuming there is more than their second round meeting).

For Ateneo, it’s all about nerves. I think it is this fear of La Salle. Their level of play and confidence drops when they play the perennial UAAP champions. 

As for the Lady Spikers, year in and out, every time they take the floor, they play with an assertiveness and aggression no matter how young the team. And you have to give DLSU’s legendary coach Ramil de Jesus full props for that. And it isn’t all bluster; they deliver. And how!

When there are young teams — no matter how good — there are cracks. If opponents exploit those cracks no matter how small, they turn into huge fissures. Ateneo nearly pried it open when they took the second set and led for a while in the third. But it was all downhill for them from thereon as La Salle found their second wind.

Here are some points to take from La Salle’s win:

That is another loaded lineup that they have

They have size and athleticism plus some really smart players. They have very good players in all the positions. 

In the middle you have Aduke Ogunsanya and Thea Gagate. They have Jolina dela Cruz and Tin Tiamzon playing the outside and Leila Cruz, Baby Jyne Soreno on the opposite. Marrione Alba is showing that she can back up Michelle Cobb, while rookie Justin Jazareno gave a good account of herself at the libero position.

Five of the eight rookies were fielded and save for Fifi Sharma, the others were fielded in and out and contributed to their win.

This team is losing only Ogunsanya and Carmel Saga following the end of this campaign. As for the others? They will be there for years to come and they will add more pieces to the mix.

Once more, excellent defense

You have to like that floor defense of La Salle. Ateneo could not — for the most part — find holes in defense. And while errors are part of the game, for a while there, the only points Ateneo could claim were from the Lady Spikers’ mistakes.

That was terrific floor defense not only from Jazareno, but also from Tiamzon and dela Cruz. And those 10 block points turned the tables on Ateneo.

They rendered Kat Tolentino, who finished with only six points, inconsequential. Ateneo rookie Faith Nisperos was the only one who scored in double figures with 13 and once more, she showed no fear. 

An excellent team win

Of the 10 players de Jesus sent in only two did not score, but they contributed to their cause. Even Alba kept Ateneo off balance with her serves. Jazareno, the libero, even inadvertently scored! How about that?

It was a resounding win, no doubt. As they aim to return to glory.

If they circled this match versus Ateneo in red, you can bet they cannot wait to get back at Far Eastern University and the University of Santo Tomas. They will have to wait because UP is next.