AFTER doing the impossible in the opener of the UAAP women’s volleyball Finals, Ateneo is inspired to do even more as it tries to move a step closer of winning a first ever title as it clashes anew with three-time champion La Salle Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Lady Eagles removed all doubts about their capacity of winning their first volleyball title after pulling off a 17-25, 25-23, 25-13, 25-20 win in Games One of the series that snapped the Lady Spikers’ 30-game winning run and negated the champions’ thrice-to-beat advantage.
Ateneo’s win on Wednesday reduced the finals to best-of-three, race-to-two series.
But a repeat by the blue-and-white squad in the 4 p.m. encounter would move them on the threshold of winning a maiden UAAP women's volleyball crown.
Team captain Alyssa Valdez however, was quick downplay the team’s early celebration as she said the Lady Eagles are keeping their guards up for the expected comeback of the defending champions.
“Hindi pa namin masyadong iniisip (ang panalo sa Game One) kasi madami pa, mahaba pa,” she said. “Kailangan namin mag focus pa. Compared noong (panalo namin sa) NU, di ba wild talaga kaming lahat. Ngayon kailangan namin mag-focus pa kasi pinantay pa lag namin 'yung laban eh.”
“La Salle 'yan, alam naman natin ang capability ng La Salle. Siyempre La Salle 'yan eh, babawi 'yan. Kami naman gagawin namin ang part namin sa training and hopefully, mas maganda (ang kalalabasan). Lalaban lang kami, 'yun lang siguro ang masasabi ko. Lalaban lang kami.”
The Lady Eagles have likewise learned their lessons.
Ateneo found themselves exactly in the same situation two years ago when they also won Game One of the title series against the thrice-to-beat La Saller side, only for the Lady Eagles to lose the next two games that allowed the Lady Spikers to retain their title.
“Pinaalala ulit sa amin 'yun nangyari 'yun,” said Valdez, who was a rookie player during that time. “Syempre dahil nangyari na 'yun mas conscious kami. Advantage pa nga 'yun kasi alam na namin ang gagawin namin, to stay focus and mag-training para mag-improve pa kasi hindi pa nga tapos ang laban.”
Now in her third year with the team, the soon to be named season MVP feels it's time for the Lady Eagles not to settle against for a second place finish, believing this year should be Ateneo’s turn to celebrate with a championship.
“Masaya na MVP, naging MVP ako dahil sa teammates ko, tinulungan naman nila ako,” said Valdez. “Pero mas maganda 'yung pinaka-aantay namin -- championship. Kasi third time na namin na andito sa Finals, i-push na. Go for it na.
“Hindi naman pagod na palaging second, siguro may certain time siguro. May time din na allotted sa amin, and hopefully, eto na kasi nakuha na namin 'yung Game One. Sana lang ma-compose namin ang sarili namin and mag focus kami.”