ALYSSA Valdez brought Ateneo back to life after a mid-match wobble to lead the Lady Eagles to a thrilling five-set win over rival De La Salle in the UAAP women's volleyball tournament before a sellout crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Valdez scored 26 points and once again stood as the pillar for the Lady Eagles, who came charging back from a set-down behind the talismanic league MVP to pull off the dramatic 25-22, 25-27, 16-25, 25-14, 15-9 win over the former three-time champions.
The win, fashioned out before a crowd of 17,998 that lined up for hours outside the venue, enabled the defending champions to complete a sweep of the first round of the eliminations with a 7-0 mark.
The Lady Spikers suffered their first loss of the season.
While Valdez brought Ateneo back to life in the fourth set, Amy Ahomiro completed the job in the decider when she led a run of five points that enabled the Lady Eagles to take a 13-8 lead.
Ahomiro finished with 13 points.
Valdez admitted they went through a bad case of jitters, evident in a messy third set when La Salle seemed to seize full control of the match, but said coach Tai Bundit never doubted them.
“Hindi naman nawawala ang kaba, palagi naman may pressure sa sarili namin to perform well pero si coach Tai lagi niya kami nire-remind to be happy,” said Valdez.
“Ang sabi nya, kung ano ang ginagawa sa training, ’yun lang din ang gagawin namin sa game and dahil doon, hindi na kami kinabahan,” she added.
The match took two hours and five minutes, longer than usual for the Lady Eagles, and the errors piled up as the match went on — Ateneo committed 46 miscues against 36 by La Salle.
But Valdez noted that the Bundit simply told then to fight back and not think of the errors.
“Grabe din kasi ang tiwala sa amin in coach Tai kahit nag-e-error kami, sabu nya lang ‘Heart Strong’ kaya ikaw bilang player mabubuhayan ka talaga ng loob so okay na,” she said.