Mutual respect as Alyssa Valdez, Ara Galang clash one last time at end of college careers
"Ara (Galang) will always be Ara," says Ateneo star Alyssa Valdez of her La Salle rival. Jaime Campos 

ATENEO top hitter Alyssa Valdez doesn't hide the fact that she holds La Salle counterpart Ara Galang in high respect.

Valdez and Galang are set to bow out of the college volleyball scene together in a familiar place - with Alyssa's Lady Eagles and Ara's Lady Spikers clashing for all the marbles in the UAAP Finals.

That had been the case their entire five-year college careers, with Galang and the Lady Spikers winning the championship in Seasons 74 nd 75 and Valdez's Lady Eagles reigning supreme the past two seasons.

Over those years, mutual respect an admiration have developed between the two teams' top stars.

“Since Season 74 Ara Galang will always be Ara Galang (and) kahit na wala siya La Salle will be La Salle,” said Valdez of her rival from Angeles City in Pampanga.

“Si Ara naman, she’s always gonna deliver, siguro ngayon siya talaga ang heart and soul of the team,” she added. “Even Kim (Fajardo), Mika (Reyes) and Cyd (Demecillo), sila talaga ‘yung ano, but it’s anybody’s ball game.”

[See Ateneo-La Salle finals the 'fifth and final set' of Alyssa Valdez's career]

That irony of the two bowing out of the college volleyball scene at the same time in the sport's biggest stage was not lost on the affable Valdez.

“It’s been really a long journey for both teams and I’m really happy for us na graduating, we’re ending it together,” said the pride of San Juan, Batangas. “No matter what happens, no matter what ending, I think it’s gonna be a memorable UAAP Season 78.”

Valdez, however, said the best-of-three series will not only be about them.

“Meron silang good system from their first sixth to their 14th player sobrang reliable talaga sila and you can’t be complacent kahit sinong ipasok nila (magdedeliver),” said Valdez.

[See 'Dapat mag-exit kami as champions,' says Ara Galang]

Follow the writer on Twitter: @meilinlozada