ATENEO'S giant-killers completed an improbable run to a maiden UAAP women's volleyball championship, beating top seed De La Salle one final time, 25-23, 26-24, 25-21, on Saturday to cap one of the most amazing playoff stories in the league's history.
Hardly given a chance to win a championship after losing most of its stars from the previous season, the Lady Eagles won their fifth do-or-die game of the playoffS to deny their thrice-to-beat arch-rivals Lady Spikers a record fourth league championship.
Instead, it was underdog Ateneo which ended a dry spell that spanned 36 years while avenging two previous finals setbacks at the hands of a supreme De La Salle team.
It was also a win for the ages.
Fittingly enough, it was league MVP Alyssa Valdez who delivered the coup de grace for the Lady Egles, scoring Ateneo's last three points including a spike that three Lady Spikers couldn't keep in play as pandemonium broke loose inside a Mall of Asia Arena that drew a crowd of 21,314 roaring fans.
As confetti rained down from the rafters, there was shock more than joy in the faces of the Lady Eagles when the championship point was delivered as the magnitude of what they had just accomplished sunk in.
This Ateneo team had to survive a sudden-death match against Adamson at the start of the stepladder semifinals, overcome National University twice more before winning thrice against a De La Salle team that, up until the finals, had not lost in 30 games.
Valdez, the only remnant of Ateneo's Fab Five nucleus last season, led from the front once again, scoring 21 points in Game Four to add the Finals MVP trophy to his league MVP award.
Rookie Michele Morente added 11 points and pint-sized Ella de Jesus added 10 for the Lady Eagles, who made the decisive move in Game Four by storming back from seven points down to win the second set.
Ara Galang, a co-MVP with Aby Marano from last season, led the Lady Spikers with 11 points, but it was her error that sucked the air out of a Lady Spikers fightback from nine points down in the third set.
The loss also denied Marano a fitting end to her college career at De La Salle. She finished with five points.