WHAT was expected to be an explosive opening-day battle turned out to be a rout as two-time defending champion Ateneo clobbered National University, 25-21, 25-19, 25-14, on Sunday in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Ateneo recovered from seven points down, 7-14, early in the second set. But aside from that NU charge, it was all Lady Eagles.
They led by ten points, 24-14, in the third and went on to complete the straight-sets win.
Alyssa Valdez, recipient of Spin.ph’s sportsman who change the game, scored 18 points, anchored on 15 attacks for the Lady Eagles, while sophomore middle blockers Maddie Madayag and Bea de Leon each had 13 and 10 markers in a match that took an hour 19 minutes.
“Malayo pa eh first game pa lang,” said Valdez when told that their win could be the start of another title run.
The 22-year old pride of San Juan, Batangas said The famous ‘heart strong’ mantra Thai coach, Tai Bundit, introduced to the team two years ago again made the victory possible.
“Coach Tai definitely made it possible naman even if we’re behind, sasabihin niya lang, ‘happy, heart strong’. We don’t know eh, it just works, we just stay calm and kailangan talaga nandoon ang composure eh. And it’s UAAP and NU ang kalaban they really fought hard today,” she said.
The Katipunan-based squad toughened up on defense with nine blocks. Madayag, used sparingly last season, had five of them while de Leon added two.
Gizelle Tan, who replaced former Ateneo libero Denden Lazaro, had nine excellent receptions.
“I’m really proud of them as in kung makikita mo sila sa training makikipagpatayan talaga sila and then ngayon lumalabas na ang mga pinaghihirapan nila,” said Valdez in commending Madayag and Tan.
The victory served as payback for the defending champion who lost to the Lady Bulldogs, then led by Dindin Santiago, 17-25, 22-25, 17-25, in the opening game of Season 76.
Skipper Myla Pablo and 6-foot-5 middle blocker Jaja Santiago came with 11 points apiece for the Lady Bulldogs.