MANILA, Philippines – Adamson University's three-set victory over University of the Philippines (UP) on Wednesday was significant in more ways than one.
It was the Lady Falcons' second straight win in UAAP Season 80, keeping them at the upper half of the league standings. They were brilliant at the service line, firing up 17 aces including eight in the opening set alone. They also displayed remarkable defense, coming up with 53 digs and limiting the Lady Maroons to only 26 attack points.
Moreover, it doubled their win total from Season 79. In what was Air Padda's first season in charge, the Lady Falcons lost their first 13 matches, before earning a breakthrough triumph in their last game of the tournament against University of the East.
"It's a huge accomplishment," Padda said after going 2-1 in the tournament. "Obviously, last year was really, really, really, really, really rough for us, and only winning one game, um, it was hard."
"So, getting our second win in UAAP Season 80 – we've already exceeded our record of last year. It feels good," she added.
For Padda, this was proof that Adamson has improved as a team, and that the Lady Falcons can no longer be considered as pushovers. "We can actually compete," the American coach stressed.
Padda gave a lot of the credit to Adamson's veteran trio of Jema Galanza, Mylene Paat, and Fenela Emnas. In Season 79, Galanza was the lone star of Adamson, carrying the offense by herself and trying to lift up a squad composed mostly of rookies and sophomores. Paat's and Emnas's decision to return to the team in Season 80 helped turn Adamson's fortunes around.
"Last year, (Jema) was put in a most difficult position," said Padda. "It was very, very hard, but she stayed strong. And I think, having Fen and Mylene come back, it's not for nothing."
"They came back with a purpose, to accomplish something," she added. "And you're able to see it on the court. I know it's only our third game, but something is happening here."
Against UP, the three veterans all came up with solid games. Paat had 15 points, including eight aces. Galanza scored 14, and Emnas contributed eight points and 34 excellent sets. But they also got 11 points from the much-improved Joy Dacoron, and a 10-point outing from rookie transferee Chiara Permentilla.
For Galanza, who at times struggled with the burden of carrying Adamson in Season 79, it is a delight to see her team play at a high level.
"Lahat ng pagod ko, pagod ng team, lumalabas 'yung pinagpapaguran namin, pinagta-trabahuhan namin," said Galanza. "Talagang maganda 'yung result."
"Sobrang saya ko, kasi lahat, nago-grow sila."
However, Galanza knows that it is way too early for Adamson to celebrate. After all, they have only played three games in Season 80.
"Nire-remind ko sila na walang magre-relax, walang titigil," she said. "Kasi, kapag tumigil tayo, tapos na lahat talaga."
"So, kailangan lang ituloy 'yung trabaho namin, and 'wag sayangin 'yung pinagpaguran namin," she stressed.
Adamson guns for a third straight win on Sunday, when they play the Sisi Rondina-powered University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)