A LOT can really happen in a span of a month. Just ask Ateneo.
Exactly a month ago, future felt uncertain for the defending champions after losing their first three games, putting doubts on the capacity of the Blue Eagles to contend with the likes of National University, La Salle, and University of Santo Tomas.
Oliver Almadro on Ateneo journey
But coach Oliver Almadro never lost his faith on the girls, continuously pushing them to give it their best as the UAAP Season 84 women's volleyball tournament wore on.
"I just asked my players to gain confidence and momentum," he said. "It’s not about the skills, it’s about the confidence, yung tiwala, yung trust nila sa isa’t isa at trust nila sa talents nila."
On paper, Ateneo really should be one of the league's formidable teams.
With Faith Nisperos leading the charge, the Katipunan spikers have a potent crew featuring Vanie Gandler, Erika Raagas, Joan Narit, a solid setter in Janel Maraguinot, and promising liberos in Roma Mae Doromal and Dani Ravena.
To Almadro, however, the problem lied on the team's collective maturity which led to their detriment one time too many.
"They’re talented, but sometimes they have the tendency to be so frustrated and so overwhelmed, so we have to balance it. Sabi ko naman, we just have to be sound fundamentally, do things right, trust in each other, and trust in the process," the outspoken mentor noted.
Slowly, Ateneo calmed its nerves and made its comeback, stringing a pair of three-match win streaks and taking down crucial foes in UST and Adamson to force a tie for fourth place at 8-6.
And with a chance to progress, the Blue Eagles made sure that all of those efforts won't be for naught, sweeping the Lady Falcons in the fourth place playoff on Saturday.
"We’re here not because of one, two, or three players, but all of them contributed to our momentum in gaining this Final Four spot," he said.
The hard part, however, has only just begun as Ateneo will have to climb the stepladder as the four-seed starting against no. 3-seed UST on Tuesday in a do-or-die duel.
But just like how the Blue Eagles pulled themselves out of the rut, Almadro said that there's really no secret on how his side can come out on top again.
"UST is a great team, and sabi nga namin great teams will just push us forward," he said.
"They have a tough team, deep bench, and a good coach. Pero kami, we'll just follow the system and we have to be sound fundamentally and do things right. That’s it. Yun lang naman muna."
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