UAAP: Ateneo Lady Eagles win crown 'for the seniors'

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 19 2019 04:18 PM

UAAP: Ateneo Lady Eagles win crown 'for the seniors' 1
Alyssa Valdez, Ella de Jesus, Denden Lazaro, and Gizelle Tan were among the former Lady Eagles who watched Game 3 of the UAAP Season 81 finals. Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines – When the Ateneo de Manila University ended a four-year title drought in UAAP women's volleyball on Saturday, the Lady Eagles won the crown not just for themselves but also for the seniors of past Ateneo teams whose careers ended in heartbreak.

Ateneo annexed the UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball crown in thrilling fashion, beating University of Santo Tomas (UST) in a three-game series that went the distance. In the deciding Game 3, the Lady Eagles imposed their will against Sisi Rondina and the Tigresses, winning via sweep 25-17, 25-22, 25-22.

It was their first championship since Season 77, when a team bannered by Alyssa Valdez, Ella de Jesus, and Denden Lazaro led the Lady Eagles to a perfect season.

De Jesus and Lazaro left the team that year, thus graduating as champions. But Valdez, along with Amy Ahomiro, did not get the same send-off as they lost to De La Salle University in Season 78. In Season 79, Ateneo suffered another cruel end to their campaign, losing to the Lady Spikers once more in what turned out to be the swansong of iconic playmaker Jia Morado.

Season 80 was another painful experience as they failed to advance to the finals, and saw Jhoana Maraguinot "sign off" afterward.

Some of those players – Valdez, de Jesus, Lazaro, Morado and Maraguinot – were all present at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday and saw how their former teammates ended Ateneo's four-year wait.

"Of course, they were with us," said Finals MVP Bea de Leon, who along with Maddie Madayag and Kim Gequillana will graduate as champions.

"Ate Ly (Valdez) and Jia trained with us before Game 2," she revealed. "They really wanted it for us, and siguro nga, especially 'cause kami yung last batch na naabutan nila."

De Leon said that as much as they wanted to win the title for themselves, to make sure that they ended their UAAP career on the highest of notes, they also kept their "seniors" in mind. She and Madayag were rookies in Season 77, when they sent off Lazaro and de Jesus as champions, but could not do the same for Valdez, Morado, and a host of other Ateneo players.

"We really wanted to win it also for them, and they were really in our thoughts," she said.

Morado and Valdez, in particular, did their part in preparing the Lady Eagles for their series against the Golden Tigresses.

"Imagine, to train with us even if they had training," De Leon said of the pair, who are set to play for Creamline in the upcoming season of the Premier Volleyball League.

"That's a show of love and care for all of us, and we really appreciate all of them who could continuously watch and cheer for us," she added.

The former Ateneo stars who were there to watch Game 3 – not just Valdez and Morado, but even members of the famed "Fab Five" – were all beaming with pride after the current crop of Lady Eagles got the job done.

"I'm really, really proud, because I've seen how hard they prepared in the pre-season against us, in the PVL pa, and then I've trained with them sometimes going to the UAAP," said Morado.

"Sobrang pinag-hirapan talaga nila 'to. I know how much they wanted this, I know how hard they had to train para lang maabot yung moment na 'to, and I'm really happy na nakuha nila ang goal nila," she added.

For Maraguinot, who opted not to return for her final year, her pride was two-fold. She not only got to watch her former teammates win the UAAP champion, she also got to see her younger sister, Jaja, win a crown as a freshman.

"Sobrang proud ko, to everyone, not just to my sister. Sobrang pinag-hirapan nila 'to," she said.

All the heartbreak of the past years, when they ended the tournament with painful losses, were washed away with Saturday's golden moment.

"Okay na 'yun," said Maraguinot. "Binawi na nila 'yun. Okay na."

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