MANILA, Philippines – In the aftermath of their first loss to their archrivals in the UAAP Season 79 women's volleyball tournament, Ateneo de Manila University's fiery middle blocker Bea de Leon remained upbeat as ever.
"It's not the worst possible time (to lose to La Salle)," De Leon said defiantly after the Lady Eagles squandered a one-set lead in Game 1 of the best-of-three Finals series against the Lady Spikers on Tuesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
"We didn't lose the championship. That would be the worst possible time," she pointed out. "But the mantra of this team is 'heart strong,' we'll live up to that name."
The Lady Eagles seized set 1, 25-21, and were three points away from winning the second set, 22-17. But they surrendered six unanswered points to La Salle and had trouble receiving Kim Fajardo's serves; the Lady Spikers went on to win the frame, 29-27.
In the final two sets, it was La Salle that showed more poise in the end game, repeatedly denying Ateneo's attempts at a comeback.
"We lost," De Leon, who scored 14 points in the loss, said bluntly. "Nothing much. Definitely came down to our errors. It was a good start for us, but then La Salle started coming, and marami kaming kulang. It was on us."
Ateneo committed 34 unforced errors in the contest, several of which came on their serve.
De Leon also admitted that their floor defense was "a bit shaky," which is partly the reason for their woes on offense. Ateneo, the best attacking team in the UAAP, mustered only 38 attack points in the match as opposed to La Salle's 51.
"Defense in totality for us was low today, hence the lesser outcome in attack," she said.
De Leon acknowledged that the Ateneo players were "a bit down" immediately after the loss, but stressed that they remained hopeful. They are taking strength in their two elimination round victories against La Salle, when they showed an ability to come back from large deficits and claim the win.
"It's not over yet," De Leon stressed. "It's just Game 1. We know we can do it, with the past games with La Salle. So definitely, we'll come back to training tomorrow, work a lot harder, and on Saturday, babawi kami."
"It's Game 1, and it's best-of-3," she added. "On Saturday, we'll meet again, and we'll get there."
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