MANILA, Philippines – Far Eastern University's (FEU) victory over Ateneo de Manila University on Sunday was significant for several reasons.
For one, it marked the first time since Season 75 that the Lady Tamaraws had beaten the Lady Eagles. Five seasons ago, they swept Ateneo in the second round, though the Katipunan volleybelles still went on to make the finals that year.
In Season 80, the Lady Tamaraws outlasted the Lady Eagles in a cardiac five-set affair, 19-25, 25-21, 18-25, 25-20, 15-9. They peppered Ateneo with 20 service aces, with Chin-chin Basas coming through with a pair of sharp serves in crunch time that deflated the Lady Eagles.
"Very good birthday gift, 'yung first game at first win namin sa season," said new FEU coach George Pascua, who won on the eve of his 46th birthday.
"Big morale (booster) para sa mga players… No matter what, kailangan natin umpisahan ng maganda, tapusin natin ng maganda," added Pascua, who took over the FEU women's team last year, replacing Shaq delos Santos.
"Iba pa rin 'yung mananalo ka, na kahit paano, may foundation ka na. Tapos, knowing na Ateneo pa ang tinalo namin."
FEU has endured several disheartening losses against Ateneo in the past few seasons. In Season 79 alone, they lost a pair of gutting five-setters, then bowed to the Lady Eagles in the Final 4.
"Pampa-high morale sa mga players ito, knowing Ateneo ang tinalo namin," Pascua beamed.
For all of the Lady Tamaraws on the roster, this is the first time that they defeated Ateneo in their careers. FEU skipper Bernadeth Pons has been repeatedly frustrated by the Lady Eagles throughout the first four seasons of her career, but got a breakthrough win on Sunday.
Moreover, it marked the first time since Season 74 that FEU has won its opening day assignment. Back in 2011, they swept University of the East to open their campaign, eventually making the Final 4.
"Sobrang happy (ko)," said Pons, who finished with 14 points, after the game. "Napag-usapan din namin noong last set na in my past four years sa UAAP, never pa kaming nanalo ng first game sa UAAP."
"Ito pa lang ang first time, sa fifth year ko na. So napag-usapan namin na hopefully, mangyari siya ngayon, ayun nangyari naman," she added.
The Lady Tamaraws and their coaches are now hoping that their impressive win over Ateneo is only a sign of what's to come as the tournament progresses. FEU is considered as a Final 4 contender in Season 80, and though they struggled against the Lady Eagles initially, they ended the game on a fiery note.
"A win is a win," said Pons. "Although madami pa rin kaming sobrang daming errors and lapses, good thing naman is naka-recover kami."
"Nag-uumpisa pa lang kami," Pascua also said. "Knowing ang first round, kapaan pa lang 'yan. Marami pa kaming i-improve, lalo na 'yung blocking namin."
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