MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles showed their grit on Sunday in hacking out a three-set victory over University of the Philippines (UP) in the Battle of Katipunan at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
After cruising to a two-set advantage, the Lady Eagles found themselves in a neck-and-neck contest in the third frame as the Lady Maroons valiantly tried to extend the match.
In a thrilling stretch that drew raucous reactions from the packed crowd at the venue, Ateneo and UP went blow for blow in the clutch, with the Lady Maroons even reaching set point thanks to a Marian Buitre ace.
But it was Ateneo that made all the right plays down the stretch, and capitalized on UP's unforced errors. A gutsy 1-2 play by setter Deanna Wong wrapped up the Lady Eagles' 25-21, 25-15, 28-26 victory, as they handed the Lady Maroons their second loss of UAAP Season 81.
"The first two sets, we came out strong, and we showed our fierceness by finishing it quickly," noted ace spiker Kat Tolentino, who had 12 points in the victory.
"But in the third set, they were catching up, and I think UP got the momentum back," she added. "We saw a lot of fight in them."
Maddie Madayag, who had a team-high 14 points including six kill blocks, acknowledged that there was "a little bit of complacency" in the third set for the Lady Eagles.
"Siguro, we could've finished stronger if 'di kami nagbigay ng lousy mistakes, and if hindi kami nag-commit ng mga errors," she admitted.
Still, that they were able to fend off UP's charge and win in straight sets said plenty about the Lady Eagles' resolve.
"It's good to see that our team didn't back down and didn't let up, and continued fighting," said Tolentino. "It's just a show of character, that we could finish that last set."
"I'm proud of my team," added Madayag.
The win was Ateneo's fourth consecutive of the season, following a brutal loss to defending champion De La Salle University in their first game of the tournament.
Currently, their 4-1 slate puts them at the top of the league standings.
However, the Lady Eagles said they cannot at all be satisfied with their performances so far, as they noted that the tournament is far from over.
"Like what they said, be better than your best," said Madayag, who now leads the UAAP in blocks per set with 0.95. "There's always the second round pa, and hindi pa tapos 'yung first round."
"We're still learning," stressed Tolentino, currently the sixth-best scorer in the league. "There's still a long way to go for the team. A win is a win, pero it's not yet our final goal."
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