The Ateneo Lady Eagles vs the Arellano Lady Chiefs. Photo by Brosi Gonzales
March 30, 2014
San Juan Arena
The Comeback Girls were on the verge of another comeback but this time the Ateneo Lady Eagles fell short to the Arellano Lady Chiefs in a five-setter 21-25, 25-16, 17-25, 25-20, 16-14.
The loss dropped Ateneo to 1-1, while AU remains undefeated along with NU (that earlier survived a five-setter to UST) at 2-0 in the first conference of the Shakey’s V-League.
Watching the Lady Eagles during warm-ups, I remarked to William Mallari, director of the Loyola Bookstore in Ateneo, that Alyssa Valdez didn’t have a good warm-up. In fact, neither did her other teammates.
Some will point to the loss because of all the off-court distractions. While I am aware of the multiple dinners and guestings here and there, I am not aware of what their fitness level is like or even if their focus has wavered after a long and arduous UAAP season with hardly any rest.
I would prefer to give credit to the Lady Chiefs for staying chill throughout the game save for that stretch during Ateneo’s searing fifth-set rally where there was a look of panic on their faces. The crowd, vastly rooting for the Lady Eagles, couldn’t muster any consistent cheer as the Lady Eagles whose play blew hot and cold -- that is until that fifth set when the San Juan Arena began to really rock. But those cheers ended up in a squawk after Alyssa Valdez’ net block and Danna Henson’s winning point.
The Lady Chiefs celebrated as if they had won a championship. But why not? Against the ballyhooed UAAP champions and against a hostile crowd? They played well and Ateneo followed their pace. A lot of credit has to go to Arellano coach Roberto Javier. In fact, in one gutsy stretch of the fourth set that they took, he played without Cristine Rosario, Eleonor Sierra and Shirley Salamagos. No tall player up front but the gambit worked for a few plays as Ateneo misfired.
Jia Morado wasn’t in top form (although she had more excellent sets that AU counterpart Angelica Legacion, 19-13). She was assessed three errors in the first two sets for lifting violations. The normally steady freshman setter had several poor sets that were low for her hitters and resulted in net blocks or getting turned back by the wall.
And Valdez, despite topscoring with 20 points, looked off. In the first set, Air Valdez was blocked four times and had three of her booming spikes put back into play by libero Jan Galang who did a great job (12 excellent to counterpart Denden Lazaro’s nine).
But every one is entitled to off days and this was no doubt one of them. Furthermore, you have to look at what Ateneo coach Parley Tupaz was doing as he played Bea De Leon and the effervescent Rissa Sato whose smile alone can light up a room. Her conversations with Anusorn Bundit must be just as lively (hahaha).
Already missing Ella De Jesus who didn’t play, Tupaz gave meaningful playing time to De Leon and Sato. It was painfully obvious that they weren’t in sync yet with their veteran teammates, especially on defense, and that really hurt the Lady Eagles in the second set that Arellano won.
However, I commend Tupaz for bringing back De Leon for a second go-around in the second set even if her first stint didn’t pan out too well. That shows trust. I was ready to pencil Sato (two points) in for a poor stint but she redeemed herself in one series where she held serve for six consecutive serves.
Once the two get the hang of it they should contribute mightily. I should point out that in the two sets where Tupaz heavily went to De Leon and Sato, Arellano won.
So if you root for Ateneo, consider it a testing ground for the new players. I wish though that Tupaz used Marge Tejada a little more. That would do wonders for her confidence and mental toughness that waxes and wanes depending on her playing time.
Tupaz also sat down Valdez for long stretches then using Amy Ahomiro in a utility position.
You have to love Ahomiro’s growth as a player (14 points). She’s become a more all around player and has been consistent.
As for the Lady Chiefs, I admire their fortitude. They were chill all throughout the game. They pounced on Ateneo’s miscues and new players up front and dictated the pace of the game. Save for the third set, they started out well in all the others leaving the Lady Eagles to play catch up.
I love Danna Henson’s spunk and game that belies her thin and wiry frame. Yet, she has the explosiveness of Joy Cases (Philippine Air Force) who is one of my favorite players. How on earth can some people that thin have that kind of explosiveness and power? Henson led her team with 14 points and was huge in the open area with her spikes going through the blocks.
Ronerry De La Cruz was the team’s x-factor. When Coach Javier sent her in she contributed to AU’s cause that was lost amid the big games of Henson quicker Cristine Rosario (seven points), and Elaine Sagun (who scattered nine points including one in the deciding fifth set). How big were her contributions? Ronerry was used in only three sets. The second, fourth, and fifth. Incidentally, Arellano won those three sets. No, De La Cruz (six points) came up big for them.
Salamagos, outplayed by Ahomiro for most of the match got in a huge point in the fifth set.
The fifth set.
At one point, the score was 11-5 in favor of Arellano. But the Lady Eagles behind Morente, Anna Gequillana, and Valdez sparked a rally.
The loss should spark Ateneo for its next matches while its good for Arellano to get a deserving win. That really goes to show there is good volleyball being played not just in the UAAP.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.