ATENEO's unlikely run to a first-ever UAAP women's volleyball championship wasn't made by luck alone.
For Lady Eagles star Alyssa Valdez, Ateneo's winning formula consisted of hardwork, unique techniques like meditation in between sets, and a foreign coach who - through the few English words he can speak - managed to make the team believe it can do the impossible.
"'Yung heart strong," said the league and Finals MVP, when asked where the Lady Eagles found the energy and motivation to pull off a dream playoff run which they capped with a three-set victory over the thrice-to-beat top seed La Salle on Saturday at a jampacked Mall of Asia Arena.
"'Yung motivation namin ang nag-work sa team, yung happy lang inside the court," the Ateneo star continued. "Minsan sa training kahit nakakainis si Coach Tai, lahat kami gustong matuto."
Valdez, of course, was referring to first-year Thai coach Anusorn 'Tai' Bundit, who brought in a rigorous training regimen, introduced the age-old art of meditation, and, more importantly, instilled a winning mentality in a team that finished runner-up the two previous seasons.
Bundit was a colorful figure on the sidelines with his antics, but there was no question he knew what he was doing.
Since coming back from a trip to Thailand to attend to his duties with his country's national pool, Bundit led the Lady Eagles to seven straight wins to finish the eliminations followed by victories over Adamson, National University (twice) and La Salle (thrice) in the playoffs.
In all, the Lady Eagles lost just twice in all the games Bundit coached.
Bundit's principle was simple: "If you believe you can win, you will win. If you're happy and you want to win, you will win."
Bundit has certainly turned the Lady Eagles into believers. In turn, he made them winners.
"Si Coach Tai kasi, sabi nya, 'If you believe you can win, you will win,'" Valdez said. "So kami, bakit ka magda-doubt sa sarili mo kung 'yung coach mo may tiwala sa iyo."
"Kasi, yung skills one percent na lang yan eh," she added, "ninety nine percent psychological na 'yan."