MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) The Ateneo de Manila University women's volleyball program has had a rollercoaster offseason, and its bumpiest roadblock still lies ahead.
Tai Bundit, the coach who led the Lady Eagles to four straight UAAP Finals appearances and two titles, will meet with Ateneo president Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ, on Monday along with team manager Tony Boy Liao to get clarification following a rocky month.
A source informed ABS-CBN News on Saturday that Bundit is no longer the coach of the Lady Eagles, and cited his need for more time with his family as the reason.
On Sunday, however, Liao made it clear that this was not the reason, and that several internal problems led to Bundit's removal from his post. "He never resigned," Liao said emphatically.
Liao theorized that Bundit's removal was the result of a series of events that first stemmed from complaints from players regarding their strenuous training, as well as some issues about playing time of their reserves.
They met with Ateneo sports officials earlier this month, where the air was cleared among all parties. Following that meeting, Bundit trained the Lady Eagles for a week, with Liao reporting that the practices were "very good, happy-happy."
Thus, it came as a shock to Bundit that two Fridays ago, Ateneo athletics director Em Fernandez informed him that "this is your last day," and told him not to report to training the following week.
"Sabi niya, 'OK kung ‘yan ang gusto ninyo I will not go to the training anymore on Monday,'" said Liao of Bundit's reaction.
The players were shocked that their coach no longer showed up to practices, but Bundit simply told the Lady Eagles to ask the Athletics Office why that was the case.
A source insists, however, that the parting of ways between Bundit and Ateneo was not sudden or shocking. Rather, it was a decision made over the course of a few months when it became clear that there were problems plaguing the team.
Liao hopes Monday's meeting with Villarin will give them clarity, but made it clear that even if the Ateneo president asks Bundit to stay, it is highly unlikely that he will do so.
Bundit, speaking to Tiebreaker Times, said he was "very shocked, very sad" at how events played out, lamenting the drama that surrounded the team. He also doubled down on Liao's assertion that he does not intend to repair his fractured relationship with Ateneo, saying "No more" when asked if he still wants to return.
Bundit is credited with bringing the Ateneo women's volleyball program to a different level. He took over in Season 76, and led the Lady Eagles to a Cinderella run to their first-ever women's title. In Season 77, he coached the Lady Eagles to a perfect 16-0 campaign.
They relinquished their crown to De La Salle University in Season 78, but even after the graduation of superstar Alyssa Valdez, Bundit still helped Ateneo reach the Finals in Season 79, where they again lost to La Salle.
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