ATENEO turned what was expected to be a tight contest into a cakewalk, outclassing National University, 25-15, 25-22, 25-23, on Thursday in Game One of the Shakey’s V-League Finals at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Guest players Jeng Bualee and Rachel Daquis delivered as usual with 14 markers apiece, but the Lady Eagles also drew solid contributions from its role players who stepped up for injured star Alyssa Valdez to move a step closer back-to-back championships.
“Si Alyssa kasi is nursing an injured shoulder kaya nagamit ko yung isang option namin,” Lady Eagles coach Roger Gorayeb said as seldom-used Amy Ahomiro and Margarita Tejada made significant contributions in the clutch.
Motivated after being informed that someone from the NU camp said Ateneo would lose in straight sets, the Lady Eagles did the exact opposite against a team that dealt them a straight-sets loss in the quarterfinals.
“Naging challenge rin sa amin yung prior to the game na sabi daw three sets lang daw kami (na matatalo),” Gorayeb said. “It’s always a challenge for us even as we never underestimated any of our opponents. I never predicted a three-set win against any of our opponents in the V-League or in the UAAP.”
“Even the critics would say that dahil tinalo nila kami sa quarterfinals,” Gorayeb added. "But syempre it was a match before, a no-bearing game. This is what matters most, so we had to prepare for this.”
Overwhelmed by the atmosphere in their first Finals appearance since joining the country’s premier volleyball league, the Lady Bulldogs failed to get anything going as no one scored in double figures in the match that was finished in one hour and 14 minutes.
Dindin Santiago best typified NU’s inexperience as the towering NU skipper floundered in her first game after being named the league’s youngest MVP, as she wound up with just seven markers.
“Kung makikita niya, hindi naman ganun kaganda yung reception nila,” Gorayeb said. “Hindi ko alam kung kinabog sila, maybe overconfident sila.”