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La Salle struggles sans ‘guardian Angel’

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF UAAP ANGEL Canino has been the missing link in De La Salle University’s campaign in Season 86 UAAP women’s volleyball tournament.

De La Salle University needs to learn to live without their ace scorer and court leader — Angel Canino.

Lady Spikers assistant coach Noel Orcullo rued the disarray he saw as the defending champions barely escaped the upset ax of a nothing-to-lose University of the East in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament last Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

In their second game without Canino, the reigning Most Valuable Player and Season 85 Rookie of the Year who suffered a laceration on her right hand due to a freak accident during the break, La Salle visibly struggled.

The Lady Spikers needed two and a half hours to get rid of the Lady Warriors, 25-23, 21-25, 25-17, 22-25, 15-12, for a 9-1 win-loss record tied with University of Santo Tomas (UST) on top of the standings.

“I guess as of now, they are still looking for Angel. Although her physical presence is there, her teammates are missing her presence on the court,” Orcullo said following what he described as an ugly win for the Lady Spikers.

“Angel, as leader, boosts her teammates to push themselves to play on top of their game.”

La Salle endured 31 errors and lacked the finishing kick that it usually had with Canino around.

“Right now, we only have a few leaders inside the court. I told them that we can’t have just one leader, we can’t just rely on captain ball (Julia Coronel). All of us should be leaders inside. We can’t have just one leader, you should all lead,” Orcullo said.

Canino’s status remains day-to-day.

Although La Salle is already assured of a Final Four spot — its 14th straight playoff appearance — Orcullo hopes to see maturity and a stronger character in his team.

“We still need to see more of that (strong) character. Although they fought hard to get the win, we felt that it’s not enough,” Orcullo said.

“Hopefully, they’ll push themselves to the limit and not crumble under the tremendous pressure of not having Angel around.”

And the Lady Spikers will have to do it right away.

La Salle’s last four games against last year’s runner-up National University on Sunday, followed by Adamson University, Ateneo de Manila University and a rematch against first round tormentor UST are crucial in its drive to clinch a semifinals twice-to-beat advantage.

“We have been reminding them that it won’t be a cakewalk for us. We have to work hard to get the twice-to-beat,” the longtime assistant of head coach Ramil de Jesus said.

“As much as possible we have to put more push more in training, double our effort in what we do, stick to our system, and at the same time follow our game plan to the tee.”

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