MANILA, Philippines - After the ambush on a rival that many thought was unbeatable, surging Ateneo braces for a fierce counter from a La Salle side dead set on defending its throne in the UAAP Season 76 women’s volleyball tournament.
“Syempre La Salle yan, alam naman natin ang capability ng La Salle so definitely dapat mag-focus kami, mag-double time pa sa training (La Salle is the champion for good reason, we know what they’re capable of so we have to work double time preparing against them),” said Ateneo skipper Alyssa Valdez after their resounding 17-25, 25-23, 25-13, 25-20 reversal at the start of the finals.
The Lady Eagles not only snapped the Lady Spikers’ 30-game win streak dating back to last season but more importantly took away top seed La Salle’s thrice-to-beat advantage in this title showdown.
The three-peat champ La Salle and three-time bridesmaids Ateneo will now figure in a race-to-two affair to settle the issue in the 2013-14 hostilities.
“Sabi ko nga sa mga bata, eto mate-test ang character natin sa susunod na game; kung ano talaga ang meron sa team (I told the girls this will be a test of character for us, of what stuff the team is made of in the face of adversity),” said La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus, who tasted his first defeat since their setback to Santo Tomas in the opener of Season 75.
“Kung makakapag-adjust nang maayos at maipanalo ang game sa Saturday, yun ang La Salle talaga, kung hindi, ibang La Salle na yan (If we can make adjustment and come back to win the next game on Saturday, we can say that’s the La Salle team we used to know),” he added.
Except for the first set and some portions of the fourth, La Salle was a shadow of its devastating self against Ateneo, committing a lot of service errors and mis-hits and faltering against the steady serving of their rivals.
“Mahirap din yung medyo nakapagpahinga nang matagal, iba pa rin yung game kesa training. Pero hindi kailangan maging rason yun (It’s quite difficult to shake off rust from a long break but I wouldn’t make this a reason for the loss),” said de Jesus, whose wards waited 18 days to plunge into action against a finals opponent after sweeping the elims.
“Hindi ko rin inexpect na ganon kataas ang ilalaro ng Ateneo. Maraming nag-perform sa Ateneo, hindi lang si Valdez, andun si (Michelle) Morente, si (Ella de Jesus), even yung setter nila (I didn’t expect Ateneo to play at such a high-level; they had a lot of heroines to support Valdez like Morente, de Jesus, and their setter),” he added.
Valdez, who will soon be named Season MVP, punched in 16 points and was complemented by Morente, who topscored with 17 points, plus Amy Ahomiro (16) and de Jesus (12). Julia Morada had 40 excellent sets while libero Dennise Lazaro had 22 excellent digs.