The Ateneo Lady Eagles are crowned UAAP 76 women's volleyball champions. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Lady Eagles had nothing but praise for the De La Salle Lady Spikers after the two squads engaged in a historic four-game series in the UAAP Season 76 women’s volleyball finals.
Facing off in the finals for the third straight year, it was Ateneo who came out on top this time after overcoming a thrice-to-beat disadvantage against the top-seeded La Salle, who entered the finals with a 30-game winning streak, having swept the elimination round of the tournament.
Ateneo wrapped up the series – and their first-ever UAAP women’s volleyball crown – with a surprising three-set victory over La Salle last Saturday.
Afterwards, Ateneo star Alyssa Valdez and La Salle setter Kim Fajardo – who were teammates at the University of Santo Tomas in high school – shared a long hug, while La Salle captain Abigail Maraño and Ateneo libero Denden Lazaro were also seen talking.
“Si Kim, hindi siya nagsasalita sa akin, umiiyak lang siya,” Valdez later revealed. “Sabi ko, okay lang ‘yan, as in sobrang good fight talaga, and everyone played really well.”
“Nakahabol pa nga sila,” added Valdez, referring to La Salle’s last ditch rally in the third set to cut a nine-point deficit to two. “Ang La Salle talaga, sobrang lakas.”
Valdez added that she comforted Fajardo, whom she called a vital cog for the Lady Spikers.
“Si Kim, isa siya sa nagdadala sa La Salle, isa siya sa foundation ng La Salle,” she said.
Lazaro, for her part, was also full of praise for Maraño, who ended her legendary UAAP career in heartbreaking fashion.
“(I just told her) Nice game, Abi, grabe, sobrang puso ka,” Lazaro related. “Ayun. ‘Nice game, thank you. Thank you.’ She was just crying.”
“Si Abi kasi, matagal ko na siyang kilala, since high school pa. And ever since, parang intense talaga siya maglaro, and I admire her for that, kasi sobrang love niya ‘yung ginagawa niya,” she added.
Valdez also noted that although they won the do-or-die game in three sets, La Salle still showed the heart of a champion by fighting back just as Ateneo had seemingly taken complete control of the game.
“(Noong) latter part ng third set, and then humabol pa (ang La Salle), na-rattle din kami,” said Valdez. “Kasi La Salle ‘yun. Siyempre, hahabol at hahabol ‘yung La Salle.”
“’Yung puso din nila, hindi bibitaw,” she said.