THE Davao Lady Agilas are looking more like dragon slayers in their debut in the V-League.
Since being hastily assembled for the Shakey’s V-League Season 11 First Conference, the unheralded guest team from the South has been making heads turn with one remarkable win after another against some of Manila's more established squads.
The latest to fall at the hands of the Lady Agilas were no less than reigning UAAP champion Ateneo Lady Eagles, who lost in five gruelling sets, 22-25, 25-18, 25-27, 25-18, 19-17, as the Davaoenas start their quarterfinal campaign on a bright note.
That the Lady Agilas also claimed the scalp of reigning NCAA three-time title-holder University of Perpetual Help (23-25, 24-26, 25-18, 25-20, 17-15), defending V-League champion National University (25-20, 30-28, 14-25, 32-30), before denying San Sebastian a seat in the next round easily made them the newest darlings of the crowd in the country’s premier women’s volleyball league.
The Davao side will now try to take its act to the next level when it seeks a first ever semifinal berth in the tournament at the expense of the Adamson Lady Falcons, whom it faces Tuesday in the second game of another doubleheader at The Arena in San Juan.
Despite the early success, Reynelen Raterta, the energetic libero of Davao, refuses to get carried away.
“Kahit nanalo po kami sa Ateneo hindi namin iniisip na parang champion na kami. Ginawa lang namin ang best namin,” she said.
Another Davao stalwart in Angel Antipuesto, who considered the Lady Agilas’ win over the Lady Eagles as a perfect present on his 21st birthday, admitted the Lady Agilas are winning because they play with no pressure at all owing to the low expectations.
“We’re not expected na mananalo, kasi we are not obliged to win. Basta we are obliged to give our best in the game," said Antipuesto.
"Hindi namin iniisip na Manila level (ang laro) basta ang mindset lang po talaga namin, magbigay lang po ng magandang laro. Manalo, matalo, ibigay lang ang laro, i-enjoy lang namin. 'Yun lang po ang strength
namin," added team captain Venus Flores.
The Lady Agilas are from different schools in Davao, with May Shiel Agton and Princess Oliveros products of University of Mindanao, while Jocemer Tapic, Flores, and Antipuesto are from Jose Maria College. Yet the players clicked right away despite having only three practice sessions prior to the trip to Manila.
“Biglaan kasi pag-imbita (ng V-League) sa amin," said Davao coach Shane Alagao. "Wala nang time magpa-elimination kaya nag-pick na lang sa mga schools. Okay naman, nag-jell naman sila."
The Lady Agilas admitted it was a dream come true to see action in a competitive league in Manila and playing against their volleyball idols such as Alyssa Valdez, Ara Galang, Myla Pablo, and Bernadette Pons.
Now the Lady Agilas have their own share of cheering from fans, who likewise ask for photo ops and signatures.
"Masaya po kasi sa Davao tumitingin lang kami dati, ngayon kami na yung tinitignan. Nagpapa-picture lang kami dati sa mga idol namin, ngayon kami na rin 'yung pini-picturan. Napakasaya po namin na nakalaro kami dito sa Shakey's (V-League)," said Flores.
The Lady Agilas’ foray into Manila is not without its share of misadventures, like when some first-timers in Manila were caught by a traffic enforcer embarking from a jeepney in a `No-Loading’ area in Marikina.
“Nawala kami sa Marikina, pinagalitan ng MMDA (officer) 'yung (jeepney) driver kasi bawal sumakay doon, hinabol lang namin 'yung jeep," said Tapic, unable to supress a laugh while recalling the incident.
"Kami na ang nakiusap sa MMDA (officer) at pinabayaan naman niya rin 'yung driver," she added.
Whatever happens from hereon, the Lady Agilas will go home to Davao an entirely different team.
"Pag-uwi namin mataas na ang morale nila (players), mataas na ang level ng laro nila at confident na sila," said coach Alagao.