Ateneo Lady Eagles stay alive in UAAP beach volleyball with gritty win over La Salle
Alyssa Valdez and Bea Tan discuss tactics on the sidelines. Mei-Lin Lozada

ATENEO lived to fight for another day as it turned back arch-rival La Salle, 21-16, 24-22, in the semifinals of the UAAP beach volleyball tournament at MOA Sands by the Bay on Saturday evening.

Lady Eagles Alyssa Valdez and Bea Tan lost to Cyd Demecillo and Kim Fajardo earlier in the day in the battle for the No. 2 seeding and twice-to-beat advantage, but fought off elimination with a gritty performance.

The two rivals now meet in a sudden-death match that was moved to Monday because of Typhoon Lando. The winner faces top seed Far Eastern University, which secured the first Finals berth after routing Adamson, 21-13, 21-19.

The Lady Eagles' win didn't come easy.

The Katipunan-based squad reached match point, 20-18, but the Lady Spikers fought back and snatched the lead, 22-21, threatening to drag the Lady Eagles to a deciding third set.

However, Back-to-back errors from La Salle gave Ateneo anonter match point which Tan converted.

"Nothing to lose eh," said a tired Valdez, who was immediately mobbed by fans after the match.

"We kind of lost it nga eh," admitted Tan. "In our first games we started to win and we felt a little bit of pressure that's why we had a three-game losing streak. But we talked about it and we just enjoyed the game."

Valdez said the Lady Eagles simply adopted the 'be happy' mantra of six-a-side coach Tai Bundit.

"Everytime naman iniisip namin na last game na namin," said Valdez. "Para ibibigay namin ang best namin ganoon naman talaga, no advantage, no disadvantage. Basta sabi lang lagi ng coaches namin win or lose basta happy kami, nag-eenjoy and we give our best, bonus na lang if we win."

The game was delayed for more than an hour due to a malfunctioning pulley on the post.

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"We've been here for the whole day ano ba naman ang extra hour," said Valdez. 

In the morning matches, La Salle beat University of Santo Tomas' Cherry Rondina and Ricca Rivera to end the Tigresses' quest for a title repeat.

In the men's side, University of Santo Tomas downed FEU, 21-13, 17-21, 15-13, in the stepladder semifinals. The Tigers were still playing defending champion and twice-to-beat National University at posting time.

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