MANILA, Philippines – University of Santo Tomas' (UST) drought against Ateneo de Manila University was extended on Wednesday, after the Golden Tigresses bowed to the Lady Eagles in four sets in their first meeting of UAAP Season 81.
It marked UST's 13th consecutive loss to Ateneo in the women's volleyball tournament. The Golden Tigresses have not beaten the Lady Eagles since the second round of Season 74, when Loren Lantin inspired them to a four-set win.
In their first encounter of Season 81, the Lady Eagles used their superb blocking to claim a 25-21, 25-18, 16-25, 25-22 win over Sisi Rondina and the Golden Tigresses. Rondina has yet to beat Ateneo in her entire UAAP career.
"Set pa lang (ang naipapanalo ko)," said Rondina. "Hindi ko naman magawa na ako lang mag-isa."
Rondina is not putting too much stock on UST's current losing streak against the Lady Eagles, instead focusing on the positives.
"Kung destiny talaga na talo ako sa Ateneo, 'di okay, accept lang, accept lang ng accept. May matutunan tayo sa pagtanggap naman eh," she pointed out.
Her coach, Kungfu Reyes, is determined to change their fate, however. Reyes took over as UST's head coach in Season 78, and has now lost seven consecutive contests to the Lady Eagles.
"Binibilang ko 'yan eh," said Reyes after their four-set loss on Wednesday.
"(Season) 78, 79, 80, ngayong 81, may isang talo na naman ako sa kanila. So hopefully, sa second round, makabawi naman, makabutas naman," he added.
"'Yun ang magandang motivation, na makaisa kami."
That breakthrough didn't come on Wednesday, as the Golden Tigresses struggled to navigate Ateneo's net defense. Rondina put up 20 points, converting 19 of 49 attacks, but Eya Laure (12 points) and Milena Alessandrini (10 points) were both limited.
The struggles of the Fil-Italian Alessandrini were a major factor in UST's loss. The sophomore spiker was repeatedly targeted on the backrow, and was shut down on offense. She converted only 7 of 20 spikes, and committed 9 attack faults.
"'Yung pinakamalaki namin, kapa nila. Huling-huli nila," Reyes admitted. "Wala na kaming ano doon, kailangan na lang namin ulit paghandaan."
"May mga combination play kami na lumulusot, pero hindi naman parating may magandang pasa," he added.
Still, the loss to Ateneo was only UST's first of Season 81, and Reyes said they are still on the right track.
"Hindi naman kami tumitigil dito," he said. "Nasa 1-1 kaming standing after the first two games. Not bad for the start."
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