IT’S not only `heart strong’ that has been helping Ateneo defy the odds in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament.
The Lady Eagles also happen to have a lucky charm too, in former player Charo Soriano.
Team manager Tonyboy Liao pointed out Soriano had been present in all of the team’s do-or-die matches this season starting in the stepladder playoff all the way to the epic Game Three win over reigning three-time champion La Salle on Wednesday that forged a winner-take-all match for the title on Saturday.
“Dala namin ‘yung lucky charm namin,” Liao confided to Spin.ph, referring to Soriano.
In the only time Ateneo lost in its past nine outings that came during Game Two of the Finals against the Lady Spikes, Soriano was noticeably absent, Liao said.
“Kung napansin nyo, nung natalo kami sa La Salle, wala si Charo (Soriano),” he said of the former Lady Eagle who is now a member of the coaching staff.
Soriano suited up for Ateneo at the time the Lady Eagles were trying to build a championship-contending team in both the UAAP and Shakey’s V-League.
Following here collegiate career, Soriano became assistant to coach Roger Gorayeb, and later to Thai mentor Anusorn `Tai’ Bundit.
But for Ateneo star and team captain Alyssa Valdez, Soriano is more than just the team’s lucky charm as she also motivates the Lady Eagles especially during this Finals.
“Sabi nga niya sa amin, kung wala kang confidence, you overthink, nawawala ka sa focus. We need to believe in ourselves,” said Valdez.
Soriano observed Ateneo’s current roster is definitely a whole lot different from the time she was still playing, from the composition of the players to the coaching staff.
“This team has a very good mix between the innocence, the purest of heart and passion of the rookies, and the maturity and experience of the veterans,” she said.
“Like Alyssa and Denden (Lazaro) and ‘yung heart and will and vigor of Mich Morente, every time she makes a point and how she can be inspiring.”
Soriano also paid tribute to the contribution of Thai coach Bundit.
“Coach Tai is a good fit and at the same time, the kind of team that we have is very, very good. That is one thing that is different from the teams of the past,” she added.
Despite all these, the Lady Eagles still has a mountain to climb against the defending champions, who rallied from a two-set deficit in Game Three before barely falling short in the end.
“We also have to give it to La Salle. Down 2-0, nakabalik sila. They almost got the four-peat with a 12-8 lead,” Liao noted.
But no matter what happens in the Lady Eagles’ final game of the season, Liao believes a Lady Eagles team that lost most of its top stars from last season has already overachieved by going this far.
“Kahit matalo kami, winners pa rin kami. Nobody expected us to play in the finals,” he said.