ATENEO-Motolite star Kat Tolentino kept her focus on the game and didn’t mind the court celebration of Adamson-Akari’s Bern Flora to remain focused on dismantling their foes’ tremendous floor defense before surviving in five sets in their Premier Volleyball League Season 2 Open Conference showdown on Sunday at the Arena in San Juan City.
During the thrilling first-round showdown of the Lady Eagles and Lady Falcons, Flora, standing at 5'6", was celebrating every kill against the 6-foot-2 Tolentino, although the Adamson skipper made it clear that it was her way to boost her confidence and teammates.
Tolentino was not affected and kept her cool, focusing on helping her team escape with a win.
“For me, I’m not one of those aggressive players like maybe her but I try not to look in the other side of the court. If ever she’s like taunting or super aggressive, I shouldn’t try to top her because that’s not how I play sometimes,” said Tolentino, who finished with 28 points, six coming in the fifth set.
“But of course I’m still looking to gain more energy and more spirit on the court.”
The Fil-Canadian spiker, who nailed 20 kills, five blocks, and three service aces, added that they really had a hard time with the persitence and floor defense of the Lady Falcons before the Lady Eagles escaped with a 17-25, 25-23, 25-20. 21-25, 15-12 victory for an improved 4-1 win-loss record.
“I think Adamson is definitely a very good defensive team. Our issue is that they’re super persistent and they keep the rallies going,” the third-year player of Ateneo said. “I admire their persistence but for us we have to be more patient with our game. And know that if we don’t get the hit the first time, eventually it will have to go our way.”
“For me, I don’t really look at it like its UAAP but definitely there’s that rivalry, that tension and that spirit. You can feel it on the court but I don’t let that disrupt my plays,” she added.
Even Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro admitted that they had a hard time with the floor defense of Adamson led by libero Thang Ponce, who had 46 digs and 21 excellent receptions, and Flora helping with 24 digs and eight receptions.
“I know coach Air (Padda), she’s my friend e, I know her system talagang they’re really persistent. So sabi ko if you really want to win against Adamson, you have to be more persistent and more determined. Ang laban kanina is tiyagain eh if sino yung unang susuko eh medyo mahuhuli,” said Almadro, referring to Adamson’s 124 digs and 42 excellent receptions.
“Siguro may mga times na we felt na, ‘Oops hanggang dito lang kami.’ But I told them na just don’t stop moving, don’t stop asking and don’t stop trusting each other sometimes kasi doon na pumapatak yun if you doubt yung nasa katabi mo yung nasa harap mo nagkakaroon ng gaps.”
“I really commend the Adamson defense, talagang they’re everywhere kailangan talagang if you want to win against Adamson you really have to be one hundred and ten percent fit, one hundred and ten percent power and strength,” he added.
The Lady Eagles did just that as Almadro praised Tolentino for embracing her new role and playing like never before.
“Kat has new role this year. I know she’s not that hundred percent with that role pero she’s giving everything and I’ve never seen Kat play like this before na you can see her all around the floor, diving, blocking, moving and then asking for the ball,” the new Ateneo coach said on Tolentino.
“I haven’t seen her like this before siguro more ano pa kay Kat, more believing na I am the girl so just give it to me I can make it.“
For Tolentino, she has been able to do those things because of their passionate coach, who has infectious energy and motivation.
“I think it's his passion. He brings that passion and it transfers to us,” she concluded.
After sweeping back-to-back games over the weekend including their Saturday win over Iriga-Navy, the Lady Eagles are bracing for their last two matches in the first round against Tacloban on Wednesday at the same venue and former star Alyssa Valdez and Creamline on sunday next week at the Baliuag Star Arena in Bulacan.