MANILA, Philippines – Their last game of the UAAP Season 81 elimination round was no formality for the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles, as the spikers from Katipunan needed to battle past a challenge from University of the East (UE) to secure the No. 1 seed in the Final 4.
The Lady Eagles booked a 25-20, 27-25, 25-11 win over the Lady Warriors on Sunday to finish with a 12-2 win-loss record, and enter the semifinals as the top team in the league.
Afterward, Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro took time to speak with the graduating UE players, led by star libero Kath Arado who had 28 digs and 12 receptions in her final collegiate game.
"I was just telling UE na they're a really good team, they're equally good with FEU, UP, Adamson, NU, they really just pushed us up," Almadro said after the game.
The loss to Ateneo gave the Lady Warriors a 3-11 record to wrap up their Season 81 campaign. Almadro believes, however, that UE is a far better team than their record indicates. He pointed out that they have several players who rank high in skills, led by ace libero Kath Arado.
"I've been telling my players, we really have to respect UE. (Lai) Bendong will be the most likely candidate for the best setter, and Kath Arado is the candidate for best digger and best receiver," he said.
"(Judith) Abil, No. 5 sa scoring. Si (Mean) Mendrez, No. 7 sa scoring. So they are in that top spot, individually," he added. "The coaching staff is doing very well with the team, and I told them that they pushed us forward."
"They really pushed us."
With those players leading the way, it will be foolish for Ateneo – or any other UAAP team – to underestimate the Lady Warriors. As Almadro put it: "Kumbaga, parang 'UE 'yan.' Hindi pwedeng 'UE lang 'yan.'"
It was just unfortunate that the Lady Warriors could not make it to the semifinals, said Almadro, but he reassured the graduating UE players that they deserve it as much as any team in the league.
"Ang sinabi ko sa kanila na they're equally as good as FEU, as UST, lahat kami equal," he said. "It just so happened na may mga breaks of the game, na hindi nila nakuha."
"Pero they deserve also the Final 4."
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