On his 20th season of coaching the De La Salle Lady Spikers, Ramil de Jesus took home another hard-earned championship.
The brilliant mentor now boasts of 11 titles - including three Grand Slams - and seven runner-up finishes.
Behind each trophy are colorful stories of how the team battled adversities on their way to the top and how De Jesus molded his players to be the best versions of themselves.
This season, the biggest challenge that La Salle had to face was adjusting to the loss of genius playmaker and charismatic leader Kim Fajardo. It took time before Michelle Cobb, their new starting setter, managed to shake off the pressure and ease into her role. The whole team rallied behind her, and eventually, everything fell into place.
"It was very hard because, at the start of the eliminations, the team was shaky. But throughout the long season, we were able to fix the team's problems," De Jesus said about their challenging Season 80 journey.
"You know that the team was not as stable. We lost Kim Fajardo, who I consider as the number one setter in the Philippines. It was hard to replace her," added De Jesus. "When you lose a setter, the team becomes shaky. I'm very thankful that Cobb stepped up."
The "shaky" Lady Spikers dropped two of their first six games, prompting De Jesus to tell his players that they did not belong in the UAAP. This criticism lit a fire in the team. From that point on, they elevated their level of play. They dominated the next 11 matches, including a masterful sweep of the FEU Lady Tamaraws in the finals series.
Clinching a third straight crown was a fulfilling ending to the collegiate careers of Kianna Dy, Majoy Baron, and Finals MVP Dawn Macandili, whose services will be missed by the Lady Spikers next year. But instead of creating huge holes on the roster, De Jesus is confident that this will only pave the way for new players to shine, similar to what happened to Cobb this year.
"Every year, there are players who leave, so you just need other people to patiently step up. In my 20 years, players leave but other players step up. It only becomes a problem if there are no materials," the multi-titled mentor said.
Players have come and gone but De Jesus is here to stay. For the last two decades, he has instilled an unparalleled winning tradition in Taft. His presence alone makes La Salle a formidable team as it guns for a historic four-peat next season.