MANILA – Bea de Leon's decision to play in her final season of eligibility will surely have a "positive effect" on the Ateneo women's volleyball team, says Lady Eagles coach Oliver Almadro.
De Leon, Ateneo's veteran middle blocker, confirmed last Thursday that she intended to play in her fifth and final year for the Lady Eagles, ending months of speculation.
"Basically, there's unfinished business for me," said de Leon, who helped Ateneo win the UAAP title in Season 77, and was part of the squads that made the Finals in Seasons 78 and 79 as well.
Almadro, who took over the head coaching position vacated by Tai Bundit at the end of UAAP Season 80, welcomed de Leon's return.
"Of course, we're very happy that she finally decided to play and join us in our training and team activities right away," Almadro said. "For sure, it will have a positive effect in our preparation."
"The Lord answered the prayers of the Ateneo community and her fans (for her) to come back and play her final year," he added.
With de Leon in the fold, the Lady Eagles now have a solid veteran core for Season 81. Also set to return are team captain Maddie Madayag, outside hitter Kat Tolentino, and reigning UAAP Best Setter Deanna Wong. Almadro is also counting on Ponggay Gaston to take a bigger leadership role in the team.
The Lady Eagles had lost top scorer Jhoana Maraguinot after Season 80, while also bidding goodbye to Bundit.
"I know it's a lot of sacrifice for Bea and also for Maddie na maglaro in their final year," Almadro said. "Siyempre, because of strenuous training, waking up early, putting commitment also in their studies again."
"The most important is them accepting the challenge to lead the team," he added. "Win or lose, they want to be an example, to be a man for others, to do magis – instead na magpahinga, they still committed themselves to play and sacrifice."
De Leon spent most of the offseason playing for the Foton Tornadoes in the Philippine Superliga, but was included in the Lady Eagles' line-up for a recent tournament. She is expected to shift her focus to the Lady Eagles in the coming months, making her participation in the PSL All-Filipino Cup doubtful.
"Alam nilang priority ko ang Ateneo," de Leon said when asked of her stint with Foton.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.