Without Bernadeth Pons for FEU, defending champion Ateneo cruised to its 3rd win in the UAAP Season 78 women’s volleyball tournament Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Having as much as an 11-1 lead in the opening frame, the Lady Eagles were in high spirits from start to finish to stop the Lady Tamaraws’ charge to take home the 25-22, 25-19, 25-15 victory.
On allowing the Morayta spikers to catch up even after a commanding lead in the 1st set, Ateneo team captain Alyssa Valdez shrugged it off saying it is all part of the game.
“Lagi naman sinasabi ni coach Tai sa amin na volleyball ‘yan. Hindi maiiwasan na lalaban at lalaban at hahabol ang kalaban,” said the captain matter-of-factly.
“Medyo nag adjust din naman kami. As a new team, consistency talaga ‘yung kailangan namin i-focus on. Nakikita naman every set na may weaknesses kami at pagkukulang as a team,” she added.
Despite allowing the opponents to come within striking distance, the Lady Eagles still managed to survive unscathed as Valdez led the team with 15 markers built on 13 kills, an ace and a block.
Veteran Amy Ahomiro and sophomore Maddie Madayag also finished in double digits, combining for 21 points to the team’s winning cause.
The biggest revelation, however, was the entry of second libero Jamie Lavitoria as she finished with 8 excellent receptions for Ateneo, the team’s highest during the match.
“I’m really happy for Jamie. She’s super hardworking ever since talaga,” exclaimed Valdez.
“Setter siya turned into a libero same as Gizelle (Tan),” she added. “They’re really accepting the role and the challenge to help the team. They’re really doing a great job.”
Though it was not part of the plan, according to the outside hitter, Lavitoria has proven her nerves of steel when she came into the match and delivered the much-needed defense for Ateneo.
On Lavitoria’s inspired performance, she says, “Isipin mo naman ikaw ba naman ang ipasok ng crucial out of nowhere. Pero as a player, lagi kang ready and Jamie showed today na she’s always ready.”
The daunting task comes with a lot of pressure for both Lavitoria and main libero Tan as the shoes they need to fill belongs to one of UAAP’s greatest, Denden Lazaro.
But based on Jia Morado’s 38 excellent sets in just 3 sets, the duo is pretty much doing a splendid job in delivering quality balls.
“Sabi nila defense wins championships and games. And we really need them kasi ‘yun ‘yung bumubuhay sa lahat ng teams,” said Valdez talking about the importance of the liberos’ roles.
“Kailangan din namin mag double time sa depensa. Gizelle and Jamie are trying their best and they’re pushing themselves para matulungan ‘yung team,” closed the reigning MVP. — By Mac Dionisio