CEBU CITY – The country’s most successful womens’ volleyball squads this past year are set to do battle on southern soil as the reigning UAAP champions Ateneo Lady Eagles face off against the Philippine Super Liga and Shakey’s V-League title-holders Army Lady Troopers on Saturday in the exhibition game dubbed 'The Champions Tour' at the University of San Carlos gym.
Ateneo is bracing for a fierce battle under the leadership of skipper Alyssa Valdez, who was named as the UAAP’s season and finals MVP last year when the Lady Eagles overcame a thrice-to-beat disadvantage to beat bitter rival and erstwhile champion La Salle.
“We believe to win. Army is a strong team. Ateneo is the same,” said Thai coach Anusorn 'Tai' Bundit during a press conference on Friday at the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu campus in Canduman, Mandaue City.
Valdez on the other hand, believes that they are in for a tough match against an Army side that boasts of several MVPs in Rachel Ann Daquis and Jovilyn Gonzaga, Cebuanas Genie Sabas and the newly-transferred Abigail Praca, Nene Bautista, Mary Jean Balse and Tina Salak.
Army is also out to serve vengeance after Ateneo stunned the team in five sets in the second round of the Shakey’s V-League tournament.
“They’re a veteran team. Mag-aadjust yan sila agad. Pero pinag-aralan din naman namin sila and we just have to play happy and rely on our teamwork,” said Valdez.
Ateneo, though, hopes to stand its ground behind the likes of Michelle Morente, New Zealander Amy Ahomiro and Jia Morado. Morente was especially lethal in their victory over the Lady Troopers as she fired in five service aces in the deciding fifth set.
But the spotlight will undoubtedly be on Valdez, who starred for the University of Santo Tomas in high school before transferring to Ateneo. With all eyes on her, Valdez dished out some timely advice for those wanting to someday make it to the big leagues.
“Everyone starts from scratch. Wala naman pinanganak na magaling na kaagad. It will take hard work, patience and discipline. And also listen to the coach. Coaches know the best. Everyone can make it to the UAAP,” she said.