IN an emotional scene at the end of the UAAP women’s volleyball finals, Ateneo libero Denden Lazaro and a sobbing Aby Maraño embraced at mid-court as confetti fell around them.
As the Lady Eagles prepared to celebrate their first-ever UAAP championship, Lazaro took time to console the La Salle skipper whose bid to cap her college career with a fourth title ended in vain.
Ateneo may have worn the ‘Heart Strong’ motto on their sleeves during its dream run to the title, but Lazaro said Maraño was also the epitomy of that same Lady Eagles battlecry throughout the playoffs.
“Nice game, Aby. Grabe sobrang puso ka,” said Lazaro, when asked to recall what she told the distraught Lady Spikers captain in an interview with a handful of reporters at the Ateneo dugout.
“Sabi niya, 'Nice game, thank you.' She was just crying,” added Lazaro.
The UAAP championship capped a sensational year for the pretty Lazaro, who was earlier awarded the Best Receiver and Best Digger awards for Season 76.
Lazaro, dubbed the 'Iron Eagle' after enduring an ankle injury during the finals, is one of the most popular figures in volleyball not just because of her talent but also because of her looks.
In contrast, Maraño, who wears her heart on her sleeves during games, has been the subject of bashing from fans for allegedly being "too cocky" on the court.
Lazaro, however, took time to defend Maraño, saying she understands her longtime rival and expressed her respect for La Salle's "intense leader."
“Si Aby, matagal ko na siyang kilala since high school pa. And ever since, intense talaga siya maglaro,” said the Ateneo libero.
“And I admire her for that because sobrang love niya ‘yung ginagawa niya,” Lazaro added before she politely excused herself to join the Lady Eagles on the team bus.