MANILA, Philippines—When Ateneo won the women's volleyball title in UAAP Season 77, Maddie Madayag was a little-used rookie, who showed flashes of potential but got little playing time.
When Ateneo regained the women's volleyball title in UAAP Season 81, Madayag was a centerpiece of the team, the anchor of the Lady Eagles' league-best net defense, and arguably one of the best middle blockers in the country.
After totaling 163 points in the elimination round and leading the UAAP in blocking, Madayag averaged 11 points per game in the best-of-3 finals against University of Santo Tomas. She had 10 points when the Lady Eagles clinched the title on Saturday, including 4 kill blocks in a 25-17, 25-22, 25-22 triumph.
"I'm speechless. Everything is from God. It's a gift from God, it's a blessing from the Lord. Everything we do, we just offered it up to him, and of course I'm very thankful for my teammates, for all the hard work, all the sacrifices we made," Madayag said.
Madayag ended her UAAP career as a champion, but it was far from a straightforward journey. Her breakout year in Season 78 was cut short by an ACL injury, and it took her more than a year to regain her full fitness.
In Season 81, however, Madayag showed what she was capable of — and it resulted in her setting the league record for most blocks in a game with 11, winning Second Best Middle Blocker honors, and helping Ateneo get back to the top of the mountain.
"It's really the journey that made it worthwhile. The victory wouldn't be as sweet as it is now if I wasn't giving circumstances like that. It's really God's plan," said Madayag.
"I trust what God has for me. Whatever happened, I just prayed."
For Madayag, the slow start to her career and the unfortunate injury that derailed her in her sophomore season could not dissuade her from working hard and achieving what she wanted.
"I'm a very strong-minded person, I think," she said. "It was minor setback for major comeback. I didn't think it was something that was going to stop me from doing what I love."
Madayag is one of Ateneo's three graduating players, along with libero Kim Gequillana, and fellow middle blocker and eventual Finals MVP Bea de Leon.
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UAAP Season 81, UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball, Ateneo Lady Eagles, UST Golden Tigresses, Maddie Madayag