UAAP Preview: Rough offseason strengthens Ateneo resolve to reclaim crown
All's well with the Lady Eagles after a turbulent offseason. Jham Mariano

FOR six years, Ateneo has been a fixture in UAAP women's volleyball's biggest stage. 

But after anoffseason rocked by internal issues and injuries, the Lady Eagles have asked their legion of supporters to temper their expectations for Season 80. 

"Don't expect too much. Kasi, 'yung preparation for Season 80 talagang may ups and downs. Maraming nangyaro. Sabihin ko lang sa supporters na wag mag-expect, pero hindi din naman sila ile-letdown," said assistant coach Karlo Santos.

Team captain Maddie Madayag echoed his sentiment. 

"I don't want anyone to expect anything. The team's just gonna play its game - the usual happy, heartstrong," she said.

"I guess just expect that we'll give our best in every game and no matter what happens, we know that we did our best"

It was was understandable. After all, aside from the issue involving coach Tai Bundit and his wards, Ateneo also had to patch up the hole left left by injured Kim Gequillana and Ana Gopico as well as the departure of top setter Jia Morado, libero Gizelle Tan and spiker Mich Morente.

It doesn't mean, though, that they are letting up. 

A return to the championship - and hopefully win the crown after two failed campaigns - remains the ultimate goal of the team that last won a title in Season 77. 

"We're working hard for a championship pa rin. 'Yung team, hindi din naman complacent," Santos said. 

"Bawat isa sa kanila talagang nagta-trabaho especially during our Thailand training. Mapapansin mo na walang sinasayang na oras, talagang trabaho." 

The challenges only made the Lady Eagles trust each other, and they hope it will work wonders in the new season that kicks off on February 3. 

"After everything that happened, it made us stronger naman. Nalagpasan namin 'yung phase na 'yun," Madayag said. 

"Every team has its problems. Siguro, it differs na lang on how people respond. We faced our problems talaga. It made us stronger as a team."  

Follow the writer on Twitter: @janbballesteros