Adamson went from a third-place squad in the UAAP heavy with potential to a team stripped to the bone by sudden player departures.
Lucille Almonte watched her teammates leave: Louie Romero, Kate Santiago, Trisha Tubu and three others followed Jerry Yee out of the San Marcelino campus.
Almonte, one the holdovers from that promising group, finds herself carrying the responsibility of shepherding a young core of Lady Falcons as Adamson tries to fast-track its rebuild mode.
“Actually, I’m so happy [with my teammates] because it feels like some of the young players are not rookies. I feel like all of them are seniors because every time I demand [something from them], they oblige. It’s not hard to guide them,” Almonte said.
There are some things she has to do on her own, though. Like, for instance, willing Adamson back from an 11-20 deficit in the fourth set of Game 1 of the best-of-three finals against UAAP champion La Salle in the Shakey’s Super League National Invitationals.
Instead of limping out of the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City with a loss, the Lady Falcons emerged with a 22-25, 25-17, 17-25, 27-25, 16-14 stunner last Wednesday.
“I always tell them to hang on and not give up until the game is over. We were also reminded that we have to earn every point,” said Almonte, who ignited an 11-1 run late in the fourth for a 22-21 lead.
It was also to the team’s delight that rookie Red Bascon stepped up to put on the finishing touches on the rally and force a decider.
Almonte also coaxed her teammates into keeping their poise when the crowd turned against them after an off-the-block point by Bascon that put the Lady Falcons at match point, 15-14.
“I always remind them not to mind the crowd because they are not the ones playing. We have control of what’s inside the court so we have to stay focused,” she said.
Bascon heeded the advice and sealed the upset for Adamson.
Almonte bore the scoring brunt with 24 points, including three aces, to overcome La Salle, which was led by Shevana Laput’s 30-point explosion.
But her more important contribution to the squad was her leadership, as she continues to work on the team’s young core to prepare their toughness for what could be a difficult UAAP season.
It’s a goal set by new Adamson coach JP Yude.
“I told them that before when you face La Salle, you are already at a disadvantage. Let’s change that. We have to be defiant and we need to want it more,” Yude said.
Almonte is confident the younger group, which includes setter Angelica Alcantara, Ayesha Juegos, Lorene Toring, Nicole Ancheta and Karen Verdeflor, is capable of growing that defiance.
And they will get to test it in Game 2 of the finals, when Adamson expects a massive fight-back from La Salle.
“Now that we won, we have to work harder. We all know that we committed a lot of errors. We have to double our efforts. We have to continue fighting until the end,” she said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.