MANILA, Philippines -- The law of averages caught up to the Ateneo Lady Eagles on Saturday, according to head coach Oliver Almadro.
Ateneo had won 10 consecutive matches since dropping their first game of UAAP Season 81 to De La Salle University, but in their rematch against the defending champions, the Lady Eagles once again had no answers.
The Lady Spikers came away with a 25-17, 25-13, 25-23 victory, in what was a complete dismantling of the Lady Eagles. La Salle rendered Ateneo's net defense ineffective; for the first time in Season 81 the Lady Eagles had no kill blocks.
"Hindi kami nagulat, pero talagang . . . well, it's one of those days na we really accept na we're off, and hindi nakakilos," Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro said after the game, which his team lost in just an hour and 28 minutes.
"Darating talaga 'yun. It's the law of averages, and sakto, (against) La Salle," he added.
None of Almadro's players reached double-digits in scoring, with Ponggay Gaston scoring 7 points. His veterans -- Maddie Madayag, Bea de Leon, and Kat Tolentino -- each had 6 points, but were far from their best against the Lady Spikers.
The Ateneo coach admitted that their performance was "uncharacteristic," particularly when it came to blocking. They had entered the game averaging 2.62 blocks per set, but could not stop the Lady Spikers' offense.
"That's not our character," said Almadro, who nevertheless stressed that they were not dwelling too much on the defeat -- only their second of the tournament.
"Wala naman masyadong concern," the coach said. "Ang concern lang is… medyo may tendency mag-overthink, medyo may tendency to start slow. Eh 'yung kalaban, medyo hyped up right away."
It was when they tried to catch up to La Salle after a slow start that the pressure caught up to the Lady Eagles, said Almadro. Ultimately, that only resulted to more errors on both offense and defense, and Ateneo was never quite able to make up for their poor start.
"Dahil nauna 'yung kalaban, pressured ka nang humabol," he explained. "Kasi, ayaw mo na magkamali, and kung baga, everything kailangan perfect na. So … nagiging slim 'yung chance mo to move freely."
Fortunately for the Lady Eagles, their 10-match winning streak gave them some breathing room in the race for a twice-to-beat edge in the Final 4. With their 10-2 win-loss record, Ateneo needs just one more win to seal the semis bonus, and they can still get the No. 1 seed as well.
"Siyempre, malungkot because hindi sila nanalo sa La Salle, hindi nakabawi," said Almadro. "Pero 'yun lang naman. Kailangan lang mag-practice ulit, recall 'yung character, recall 'yung mindset, go back to the real goal and remove the negativity. Put the positivity always."
"What we're praying for, and what we're working for is for us to have a chance to be in the Finals, and then, 'yun na lang. Doon na lang sa dulo," he added. "I'm always saying na what's important is the last game of the season."
"No matter what, we will work hard to reach that goal na makaabot sa dulo, sa last game of the season."
Ateneo won't play again until April 24, when they take on the already-eliminated Adamson University Lady Falcons.
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